Senators Sneak In Legislation that Threatens Live Music Events. It is now the law!
Biden along with co-sponsors, Senators Grassley (R – Iowa), Lieberman (D -CT), Feinstein (D – Ca), attached The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act to the Amber Alert Bill, legislation designed to help authorities track down abducted children.
Biden had attempted to get The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act signed into law previously under it’s original title The Rave Act but his Congressional colleagues shot it down. Opponents to this legislation claim that this bill “threatens your free speech, right to dance and peacefully assemble and that threatens innocent business owners”. And that it may effect more than Raves, that club and live music venue holders should be freighted because it’s provisions reportedly apply “crake house” laws to live music and dance events and if drugs or drug paraphernalia is found to be on the premises of such an event then the owners of the venue, management and even employees could be in hot water.
Below is how the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, interprets this new law in a posting to their website: (followed by a link where you can read the actual law).
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. On April 10, 2003, both houses of Congress passed The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (formerly known as the “RAVE Act”), which was attached to the AMBER Alert bill. 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 has been signed by President Bush and is now 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.
*correction - we originally erroneously reported that Senator Grassley was a Democrat, he is a Republican. .