Late on Thursday (April 10, 2003) the Senate and House passed the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (formerly known as the RAVE Act) as an attachment to the child abduction-related Amber Alert Bill.
The Drug Policy Alliance provides background on the issue – they are very concerned, you should be too:
- This year Senator Biden (D-DE) railroaded controversial legislation through Congress that threatens your free speech, right to dance and peacefully assemble and that threatens innocent business owners.
….The “RAVE Act” legislation was introduced in a conference committee as an attachment to Senate bill 151, widely referred to as the AMBER Alert bill, legislation about child abduction that has nothing to do with drug policy issues. The “RAVE” Act, in contrast, has not passed a single committee this year. In addition, it was so controversial when it was introduced last year that two Senators withdrew their sponsorship. The “RAVE” Act makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute innocent business owners for the drug offenses of their customers – even if they take steps to stop such activity!
Sadly, a Senate and House Conference Committee agreed to attach the “RAVE Act” to the Amber Alert conference report despite the fact that the “RAVE” Act did not have a public hearing, debate or a vote this year. It is important to note due to overwhelming opposition to the “RAVE Act” legislators were forced to remove some of the most egregious language before it passed. For example, the word “rave” was removed from the version of the bill that passed. Eliminating such blatant discrimination is a victory for our continued freedom of speech. Also, the original bill suggested that prosecutors should view the sale of water and the presence of glowsticks or massage oil as evidence of drug use. These ludicrous “findings” were completely removed thanks to activists who sent nearly 30,000 faxes this year alone to their Senators urging them not to support such dangerous legislation. This legislation must be signed by President Bush before becoming law.
When it was first introduced there was widespread belief that this legislation would move through the Congress quickly with no hope of revision. Instead, due to the overwhelming opposition to this legislation it took 10 months, a change of power in the Senate, backroom policymaking, and substantial changes to the bill before it was passed – and even then it did not pass through “normal” legislative procedures.
The “RAVE” Act threatens free speech and musical expression while placing at risk any hotel/motel owner, concert promoter, event organizer, nightclub owner or arena/stadium owner for the drug violations of 3rd parties – real or alleged – even if the event promoter and/or property owner made a good-faith effort to keep their event drug-free. It applies not just to electronic-music parties, but any type of public gathering, including theatrical productions, rock concerts, DJ nights at local bars, and potentially even political rallies. Moreover, it gives heightened powers and discretion to prosecutors, who may use it to target events they personally don’t like – such as Hip-Hop events and gay and lesbian fundraisers.
The “RAVE” Act was first introduced last year in the Senate by Senator Joe Biden (D-DE). A House version was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Thanks to the support of thousands of voters like you, Drug Policy Alliance and a coalition of friends and activists around the country was able to stop both bills last year. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) sponsored a new “RAVE” Act in the House and Senator Biden introduced a Senate version entitled the Illicit Drugs Anti-Proliferation Act.
Opposition to the “RAVE” Act continues to grow. The Drug Policy Alliance and its coalition of partners will continue to work to protect property owners and prevent the further criminalization of dance and music events, mobilize opposition and advocate fixing this dangerous law.
You can voice your concern by signing a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft found here:
- On April 10, 2003, Congress passed important legislation widely referred to as “The Child Abduction Protection Act of 2003.” President Bush is likely to sign this legislation and make it law, therefore I am writing to voice some concerns I have about Section 609.
I urge you to work with Drug Policy Alliance and other concerned groups to fix the broad provisions of Section 609. In addition, I am requesting that you recommend to President Bush that substantive changes be made that uphold the original intent of the “crackhouse statute” and to provide “safe harbor” for innocent business owners. For more information about changes that could be made to improve the provisions of Section 609, I encourage you to contact William McColl or Bill Piper with the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, DC at 202-216-0035.
Section 609, also referred to as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, is a controversial attachment to an unrelated bill. Section 609 broadly expands the federal “crackhouse statute” (21 U.S.C. 856), which prohibits opening or maintaining a building for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using a controlled substance. Instead of restricting the application of the “crackhouse statute” to ongoing, continuous drug operations, Section 609 expands the provisions making them applicable to temporary, one-time and outdoor events. Civil provisions have also been added which lower the burden of proof required to punish innocent business owners. This doesn’t make sense. I urge you to ask President Bush to support the following changes:
It should be made clear that “for the purpose of” applies to the business owners, not the drug offenders. The way it is worded now it can be interpreted to mean that “knowingly” applies to the owner (who knowingly opens a place) and “for the purpose of” to the offender (who uses the place to commit the offense.) Both should relate to the purposeful intent of the owner (i.e. someone opens a club for the specific purpose of selling drugs in it)
“for the purpose” clauses should be modified to protect innocent business owners from being punished for the crimes of their customers. “Intentional” and/or “primary” should be added, so that it reads “for the intentional and primary purpose of.”
Remove the section allowing for civil charges. If prosecutors believe people should be prosecuted, it should be done criminally. Otherwise, there should be a provision that sets the standard of proof at “clear and convincing” instead of “preponderance.”
Section 609 is a controversial piece of legislation that was railroaded through the Senate and House Conference Committee, without a hearing, public notice or a debate in Congress and attached to the Child Protection Act. It is a bad idea, and I urge you not to make it worse. Among the wide-ranging priorities the Department of Justice currently faces, rigorous enforcement of the provisions in Section 609 should be among your lowest priorities. Targeting, arresting, and prosecuting innocent business owners will not solve our national drug problems.
This is not the way legislation is supposed to work – where’s that line item veto?