Marijuana activists denounce proposed ban of drug recipes

Thursday, January 6, 2000

Activists supporting the legalization of marijuana say they worry that a drug bill passed last year by the Senate would make it illegal to discuss legal uses of the plant, such as hemp clothing or medicinal marijuana.

The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would ban the publishing of drug-making instructions. The Senate approved the bill last November, saying the legislation would bolster federal and state investigators' abilities to combat the drug. The House plans to consider the bill soon after it reconvenes on Jan. 24.

One provision of the bill would make it a felony to 'teach, demonstrate or distribute any information pertaining to the manufacture of a controlled substance' such as those classified by the government as Schedule 1 drugs.

The bill is 'a bit overreaching in its desire to stymie and make illegal conversations and communications regarding Schedule I drugs,' said Allen St. Pierre, co-director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. 'The government doesn't make any differentiation for medicinal marijuana or industrial hemp.'

Hatch designed the bill to target the actual production of methamphetamine, a drug easily made with basic laboratory equipment. He warned that the drug could become the next epidemic, noting that law enforcement agents had busted more than 250 such labs in Utah alone last year.

'This bill furnishes the means for our ongoing battle against those who manufacture and sell illicit drugs,' Hatch said in a statement sent to the First Amendment Center. 'Perhaps even more important, this bill underscores our unwavering commitment to win this battle.'

St. Pierre said that the bill would prohibit doctors from providing their medicinal marijuana patients with information about cultivating and preparing the plant even in states where it is legal to do so. Likewise, hemp farmers couldn't exchange growing tips.

Currently, seven states have legalized the use of marijuana if prescribed by a physician for serious illnesses. Three states — North Dakota, Minnesota and Hawaii — have approved the production of industrial hemp.

Jeanne Lopatto, a spokeswoman for Hatch, didn't return calls for this report.