11-Apr-2003 (Fri) Wherein the RAVE Act passes. "Yay."

Without public notice, a hearing, or debate in Congress, both houses passed the "RAVE Act" yesterday. This legislation makes it possible for the federal government to prosecute innocent business owners for the drug offenses of their customers. The new law holds a business owner responsible if anyone uses illegal drugs while on their property, whether they are aware of it or not, and even if the business owner takes action to try and prevent drug use!

This became law using one of the sleaziest tricks in the Congressional arsenal. How do you get an unpopular bill passed? Attach it as an amendment to a popular bill! In this case, the "RAVE Act" was attached to the "AMBER Alert" bill, which is legislation about child abduction that has nothing to do with drug policy.

The Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund has an analysis of the bill:

[...] the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act [amends] the federal "crack house law" to make it easier for federal prosecutors to fine and imprison business owners that fail to stop drug offenses from occurring. Businessmen and women could be prosecuted even if they were not involved in drugs ­ and even if they took steps to stop drug use on their property. The provisions would also undermine public health, endanger youth, and stifle free speech.

Property owners, landlords, hotel managers, promoters and other businessmen and women could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars or face up to twenty years in federal prison if they hold raves or other events on their property and drug offenses occur. [...]

This bill would also make it a federal crime to temporarily use a place for the purpose of using any illegal drug. Thus, anyone who used drugs in their own home or threw an event (such as a party or barbecue) in which one or more of their guests used drugs could potentially face a $500,000 fine and 20 years in federal prison. [...]

The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act punishes businessmen and women for the crimes of their customers. The government can't even keep drugs out of its schools and prisons, yet it seeks to punish business owners for failing to keep people from carrying drugs onto their premises. If these provisions become law, the federal government will have the ability to scare business owners away from using or renting their property for all-night dance events, as well as any other "politically incorrect" event.

The full text of the RAVE Act is also available.

This is the bill that used to classify bottled water and glowsticks as "drug paraphernalia" -- that is, it said that if a venue were selling bottled water, that was probable cause that drug use was occurring. That particular language was stricken from the bill after massive public ridicule last year, but the "teeth" of the bill remain intact.

(Entertainingly, recent San Francisco law requires free drinking water to be available at nightclubs. So which is it? Is water a health necessity, or is it evidence of a felony?)

Neal Pollack had an amusing idea that highlights the absurdity of this law. He wrote:

Now you must excuse me. I'm going to drive down to Delaware, where I assume Senator Biden still keeps an office. There I will snort a delicious line of cocaine. It's Biden's property. Therefore, my drug use is technically his fault.

Prisoner Number 34093. Senator Joseph Biden. Convicted April 10, 2003, letting some guy snort coke in his office. Sentence, 50 years. Up for parole... in 30.

In related news, the ABC has announced their intention to start hassling 1015 Folsom again. The club is still open, but from what I can tell, this press release says that more legal action is coming soon. I guess the only reason to put out a press release (rather than actually filing suit) is for harassment and fear purposes.

The press release lists a few instances where undercover cops were allegedly able to buy drugs at 1015, and then goes on to say

Bottled water was available to the users of ecstasy who often become dehydrated when taking the drug. Glow sticks, which heightens the hallucinogenic effect of ecstasy, was also sold.

Apparently they haven't gotten the DEA's memo yet about the water/glowsticks thing.

So look, if any of you jackasses were planning on trying to sneak The Drugs into my club, could you please show a little consideration and just fucking not? I couldn't care less what you do with your life, but I have no desire to go to jail because you can't leave your habit at home. Might I recommend something in a vodka instead? That won't get us busted, and (bonus!) causes our employees to get paid.

16 Responses:

  1. greyface says:

    Woe betide to the man who runs a nightclub that the mayor's daughter enjoys.

    If there ever has been a law whose text is interchangeable with "Life sentence to anybody who runs a nightclub, that gets on our nerves" it would be this one. This is rather obviously about closing events/clubs and not about drug use, or drug safety, or drug education, or drug abuse prevention.

    First they make you jump through hoops (some of which were on fire) to get the place. Then they reward you for your effort by claiming the right to put you in jail at their whim.

    I think you were right (whenever-ago) when you said the powers that be want the whole country to be boring. It just seems to be about ensuring that there is as little entertainment as possible.

    • nichiyume says:

      Blame england? They kicked the Puritans out and founded America!
      --not my own thought.

    • I think you're overestimating their connection with reality. It's not that they want the nation to be boring -- they'd love for the people to be captivated by hollywood blockbusters and beltway snipers and wars on iraq. The fact is that the government actually believes that we're all dangerous drug abusers (I don't have any idea who you are, but their guilt-by-association cluster is that big!). The war on drugs would be senseles without the assumption that drugs are universally seductive and ubiquitous.

    • icis_machine says:

      ....unless it's corporate sponsored.

  2. baconmonkey says:

    I say we start giving crackheads $30 to go smoke up on golf courses and govt buildings.

  3. Neal's plan is flawed -- Joe Biden's office isn't a place of *business*.

    • tfofurn says:

      Let's go to the text, shall we?

      `(2) manage or control any place, whether permanently or temporarily, either as an owner, lessee, agent, employee, occupant, or mortgagee, and knowingly and intentionally rent, lease, profit from, or make available for use, with or without compensation, the place for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance.'.

      The language does not restrict it to places of business at all. Private residences are vulnerable. However, the place must be open "for the purpose of . . . using a controlled substance". DNA is not open for that purpose, but that's far more wiggle room than I'd like to give a D.A. I'm not convinced that the golf course or politico office thing would work unless the D.A. could say the course or office existed for the purpose of using controlled substances. As is far too often the case, it's up to the prosecutor to decide on whose ass the law will get medieval.

      And you don't think the politician's office is a place of business? How do you think they got elected?

      • greyface says:

        FYI, and not that it matters but: By law, most all elected officials are required to perform their elected duties in offices that are different from where they ran their campaign. It's that hypothetical separation of campaigning from the rest of their life.

  4. _revidescent says:

    watching the giants game right now and there was just a news bite about a popular sf club that is being told it is "going to be X-ed out of existence" because of ecstasy usage.

    supposedly they're going to look at what this means to other clubs at 10pm or after the game.

  5. icis_machine says:

    does this mean i can or can't bring in my allergy meds next time i come out? you guys totally gave me heck over a sealed and packaged bubble of benadryl.

  6. flipzagging says:


    Are you going to have to put up a big sign explaining this at the club entrance? Otherwise attempt to educate the clubgoing masses?

  7. kchrist says:

    In this case, the "RAVE Act" was attached to the "AMBER Alert" bill, which is legislation about child abduction that has nothing to do with drug policy.

    Absolutely ridiculous. Where's the line item veto when we need it?

  8. sixty4k says:

    No worries from my segment of crowd, we all drink when we go to clubs, and do the illicit drugs in illicit locations during ranpant law breaking rave type things.

    Of course, I'm gonna shit my pants at the next party that gets thrown at my warehouse...

  9. So you aren't liable if people show up to the club already dosed, right?

  10. macguyver says:

    Another law to enforce when we don't like you.