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 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.