Naked City

Weed Watch: Like RAVE Act -- but Worse!

Just when you thought federal legislators couldn't possibly come up with a more draconian measure than the recently passed Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act -- formerly, and still informally, known as the RAVE Act -- five U.S. House members have upped the ante with the newly filed Ecstasy Awareness Act of 2003 (HR 2962). The bill, sponsored by New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell, would further amend the Controlled Substances Act to include criminal liability for anyone who "profits monetarily" from a rave or "similar electronic dance event" and who would "have reason to know" of drug use during the event. The new statute would be punishable by up to a $500,000 fine, 20 years in prison, or both, and would authorize a $10 million appropriation to the U.S. attorney general for the purpose of awarding state grants to prosecutors and cops, "for the prosecution of Ecstasy offenses."

The measure has already gained four co-sponsors -- three East Coast Democrats and a Nebraska Republican -- but Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, says he doesn't think the measure will pass. "If I had to guess, I'd say it's not going anywhere," he said. "It seems so overly controversial." Indeed, while the intent of the bill may be to target unscrupulous promoters, its broad language means anyone associated with a rave or electronic-music "event" could face criminal prosecution. "It would include Kinko's if they made the fliers or anyone who delivers food or even the DJ," Piper said. "They're all making some money from the event."

But Piper says he and other drug-policy reformers are paying close attention to another House-sponsored bill: the Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize, and Undermine Production (CLEAN-UP) of Methamphetamines Act (HR 834). Sponsored by California Republican Rep. Doug Ose and originally introduced last year, the bill is largely innocuous, providing money and educational resources to combat the spread of clandestine meth labs. Nonetheless, the bill has one provision that has drug reformers poised for battle. Under Section 416A, titled "Promoters of Commercial Drug-Oriented Entertainment," anyone promoting any event -- "rave, dance, music, or other entertainment" -- who "ought to know" that drugs will be used at the event could face up to nine years in federal prison. According to Piper, Ose said he wouldn't push for committee hearings until his bill netted 100 co-sponsors. As of last week 113 legislators had signed on -- including Texas Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Pete Sessions, R-Dallas. Again, the CLEAN-UP provision is overly broad, Piper said; the provision could be applied to drug use at a Major League Baseball game as easily as to the same behavior at a rave. "We're going to attack it in committee," said Piper, "focusing on that one provision."

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