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Congress Wants to Tape Your Mouth Shut, Steal Your Wallet
*** Congress to ban private advertising in support of marijuana
*** At same time, to spend $145 million in tax money on government
It's finally happened. Not content with arresting 700,000 Americans a year for marijuana offenses, Congress now wants to make it illegal even to talk about marijuana. Drug war extremists are trying to ban private advertising on buses, subways, or trains that calls for the reform of marijuana laws. Worse still, the same bill also spends $145 million in taxpayer money on anti-marijuana government propaganda.
That's right. Congress wants to run anti-marijuana ads with your tax money, while at the same time banning you from using your own money to run ads in support of marijuana law reform. They want to prohibit you from spending money on things you believe in, while taking money out of your paycheck to spend on things you don't believe in.
Without being able to advertise on buses, trains, and subways, it will be very difficult for drug policy reformers to get our message directly to the American people - which is exactly what the drug war extremists fear. They want to shut us up! And they will get away with it if you don't act right now!
Every year Congress passes 13 federal spending bills providing money to various federal agencies. Sometimes the House passes a spending bill that is different from a bill the Senate passes. When that is the case, Congress appoints what's called a "conference committee" to
reconcile differences between the two bills. This conference committee then sends a final version of the bill to both the House and Senate for one final up and down vote, with no chance for an amendment. Frequently members of the conference committee add controversial things to the spending bill at the last minute, knowing that their colleagues won't vote against an entire spending bill just because one thing in it is controversial.
This year Congressional leadership decided to reconcile multiple spending bills within one conference committee, producing a single federal spending bill (known as an "omnibus" spending bill) to send to the House and Senate floor for a final vote. This tactic allowed them to slip in all sorts of controversial things they could not otherwise pass into law, knowing that Members of Congress are unlikely to vote against such an omnibus funding bill just because they don't like some parts of it.
During conference House and Senate leaders loaded up the omnibus bill (HR 2673) with dozens of controversial provisions. One such provision, added by Rep. Ernest Istook Jr. (R-OK) would prohibit any transit system that receives federal funds from running advertising from a group that wants to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. If enacted, it would prevent groups like Change the Climate and the Drug Policy Alliance from buying ad space on buses, trains, and subways around the country. It would prevent drug policy reformers from getting our reform message directly to the American people.
At the same time, the omnibus bill gives the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) $145 million to run anti-marijuana ads next year. (This provision was already a part of one of the federal spending bills that Congress considered earlier this year and was not added by the conference committee. The amount of taxpayer money spent on government anti-marijuana ads would have been significantly higher had the Drug Policy Alliance and other groups not worked to cut the budget.) ONDCP has already spent taxpayer money this year on television commercials comparing drug users to terrorists and claiming that smoking marijuana will get you raped and pregnant, make you shoot your neighbor, and make you run over little kids with your car. Next year's ads are expected to tell the American people that marijuana is more dangerous than heroin.
The House is expected to vote on the omnibus spending bill next week. The Senate may vote on it next week, but more likely will postpone voting on it until January. Because the bill cannot be amended to remove the controversial provisions, the only way to prevent them from becoming law is if a majority of members of the House or the Senate vote against the entire omnibus bill. While this is unlikely in the House, it's possible in the Senate. Many Senators are upset at the large number of controversial things added by the conference committee, including this drug policy issue. Senators are also upset over the very undemocratic way in which the omnibus bill was put together.
The Drug Policy Alliance is urging voters to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators and tell them to vote against the omnibus spending bill (HR 2673) because it was put together in an undemocratic manner and contains provisions that suppress free speech.
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