H.R. 313: Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011

H.R. 313

Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011

Date
December 7, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, December 13, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 313, the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage.  H.R. 313 was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) on January 18, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.  The Committee held a markup of the bill on October 6, 2011, and ordered the bill to be reported, as amended, by a vote of 20-7. 

Bill Summary

H.R. 313 would amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that people who enter into a conspiracy within the United States to possess or traffic illegal controlled substances outside the United States, or engage in conduct within the United States to aid or abet drug trafficking outside the United States, may be criminally prosecuted in the United States. 

Background

According to the House Committee on the Judiciary, this bill would clarify Congress’ intent that the drug trafficking conspiracy statute should be given extraterritorial application.  In simple terms, drug trafficking conspiracies which occur in the U.S. may be prosecuted in the U.S., regardless of the origin, route or destination of the drugs.

This bill would target drug traffickers and drug distributors, and expressly excludes the crime of simple possession of a controlled substance from the scope of the statute.  Consideration has been given to situations where one or more persons in the United States may discuss the simple possession or personal use of drugs outside of the United States with individuals in or outside of the United States.  The intent is to criminalize conspiracies to traffic drugs or possess drugs with intent to distribute them both in and outside of the United States.  This should not extend to discussions limited to the simple possession of personal use quantities of drugs.

Current law has extraterritorial reach concerning the foreign manufacture of imported drugs and narco-terrorism (terrorism financed through drug trafficking).  The primary anti-money laundering statute used in drug trafficking cases is also extraterritorial.  The extraterritorial federal Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act was enacted in response to the increasing use of vessels, submersibles, and semi-submersibles to traffic drugs around the world.  There are hundreds of federal laws which are expressly extraterritorial.  Extradition treaties among countries around the world are often used to effectuate the extraterritorial laws of nations.  These laws serve to secure our nation’s borders. 

This bill would tell drug traffickers not to plot their illegal activities in the U.S., and if they do, they will be brought to justice.  The United States should not provide a safe haven for the world's drug traffickers to plot their international trafficking operations.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not published a cost estimate for H.R. 313 at press time.