'Rave Act' Still Drawing Criticism

Sen. Joe Biden's 'Rave Act' (renamed the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003) is still drawing well-deserved criticism. Biden slipped the Act into the Amber Alert bill that became law on April 30, 2003. Critics charge that the law

... could not only throw innocent promoters in jail, but also scare off property owners from renting out halls, clubs and fields for any event - from concerts to political rallies - where someone might use an illegal drug. That, they say, could violate Americans' rights to free speech and free assembly.

"The law is so wide open that it could shut down anything, like a Rolling Stones concert, a hip-hop show, any kind of show," says Alex Virasayachack, a Cleveland promoter and disc jockey. "It's a pretty Draconian thing," says Marvin Johnson, a counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Owners and promoters can go to jail for something that they have no control over."

As evidence of their charge, critics point to the DEA's actions in Montana last month which resulted in NORML cancelling a benefit.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has acknowledged that an Eagles Lodge in Billings canceled a May 30 concert scheduled on its property after a DEA agent showed up that day with a copy of the new law and suggested the lodge could be held liable if concertgoers used drugs. The concert was a money-raiser for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Ed Childress, a DEA spokesman in Washington, said the incident appears to have resulted from a misinterpretation of the law by the local DEA agent.

The DEA says it has drawn up guidelines for the enforcement of the Act.

Prosecutions will be aimed, he said, at people holding events "for the intended purpose of promoting" drug use or sales. The agency also has directed agents to coordinate any enforcement of the law with headquarters, he said.

....The real targets of the law, he said, are people who promote electronic-music dance parties known as "raves" in a way that makes clear that drugs like Ecstasy will be available.

The assurances of the DEA that concert promoters and business owners won't be charged just because patrons illegally use drugs at a concert is somewhat reassuring. But, these are guidelines only, which means they could be revised. Guidelines are not law. The law still needs to be amended to make this point clear. [link via What Really Happened]

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