Bush signs law that effectively prohibits dancing, music and free speech
by Judy Osburn

FEAR Foundation Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1

Fall 2003
posted on FEAR website 4/10/2004
(c) 2003 FEAR Foundation.  Reprinting for distribution without charge, and republication permitted if article is printed in its entirety without editing, and attribution is given to FEAR Foundation Journal, Forfeiture Endangers American Rights Foundation, 20 Sunnyside Suite A-419, Mill Valley, CA 94941. 

The RAVE Act creates new triggers for forfeiture by broadening violations under 21 USC §856. Another bill, dubbed the CLEAN UP Act, is in the works. Both the new law and proposed bill make criminals out of nightclub owners, concert promoters, and employees who host or manage an entertainment event.

President Bush signed the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, also known as the RAVE Act, into law April 30, 2003. The new Public Law 108-21 will make it easier for the federal government to punish property owners for any kind of drug offense that their customers commit, even if the owners do everything within reason to prevent such offenses.

If the new law is enforced night club, theater and stadium owners will very likely discontinue holding concerts and other events.

Likewise, the proposed CLEAN-UP Act (H.R. 834) would make a federal crime punishable by nine years imprisonment of promoting "any rave, dance, music or other entertainment event" that might attract some attendees that use or sell drugs. It makes no difference under either the new law or proposed bill if the vast majority of people attending the event do not break any laws. Nor does it matter if the property owner and event promoter do everything possible to prevent customers from smuggling drugs into the event.

Both the new law and the CLEAN UP Act expand forfeiture powers. The RAVE Act, which was attached at the last minute to the so-called "Amber Alert" kidnapping legislation, changed 21 USC 856 from the crime of "Establishment of manufacturing operation," to a far broader crime entitled "Maintaining drug-involved premises."

The new law also amends §856 (a) "by striking `open or maintain any place' and inserting `open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily,'" and striking paragraph (2) and inserting: "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 new law also adds civil fines of up to $250,00 or twice the gross receipts for each violation to the existing prison term of up to 20 years and/or $250,000 criminal fine. Any property used to facilitate a violation of §856 is subject to forfeiture under 21 USC 881.

The RAVE Act was introduced by Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) last year and was defeated. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced a House version that also died after much public outcry. Determined supporters again pushed similar legislation with a new RAVE Act in the House introduced by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), and a Senate version entitled Illicit Drugs Anti-Proliferation Act sponsored by Senator Biden.

Senator Biden angrily deplored the fact that his bill met "fierce resistance." Senator Leahy, who originally co-sponsored the RAVE Act,l then later turned against the bill, said the new law had faced "serious grass roots resistance."

This year’s CLEAN-UP (Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, and Undermine Production) of Methamphetamines Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Ose, has over 60 co-sponsors. Hidden within this bill that provides more money and training for the clean up of illegal methamphetamine labs is a section that specifically makes dancing and music federal crimes.

Section 305 of the CLEAN-UP Act adds a new paragraph to 21 USC 856, that would provide: "Whoever, for a commercial purpose, knowingly promotes any rave, dance, music, or other entertainment event, that takes place under circumstances where the promoter knows or reasonably ought to know that a controlled substance will be used or distributed in violation of Federal law or the law of the place where the event is held, shall be fined…or imprisoned for not more than 9 years, or both." If passed commercial promoters could face a lighter maximum sentence than the 20 year maximum term for anyone who hosts an event under the newly signed law.

Under the proposed provision, any concert promoter, nightclub owner, arena or stadium owner could be fined and jailed, since a reasonable person would know some people use drugs at musical events.

Opponents of the RAVE Act expected enforcement to be selective. After all, a reasonable person knows that drug use and distribution also occurs in most prisons, high schools and college campuses.

Indeed, within two months of its passage, DEA agent Dan Dunlop showed up at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge in Billings, Montana a few hours before a fund raising concert was scheduled to begin there. Proceeds of the fund raiser were help qualify a medical marijuana measure for the ballot. The agent brandished a copy of the new law, stating that if undercover agents found any drugs on the premises the owners would be subject to the quarter-million dollar fine. Lodge chairman Roger Diehl immediately canceled the event.

Denver-based Special Agent in Charge Jeff Sweetin stated the law is "pretty broad" and an "aggressive approach." He added the DEA is still seeking guidance from the Department of Justice, saying "We don’t know how it’s going to shake out."

The new law affected a political rally in Sonoma, CA. Another in Wisconsin was moved to Canada Thousands of faxes and letters to Senator Biden prompted him to voice his concern over the Billings incident to the DEA administrator The DEA subsequently issued guidelines aimed toward preventing such abuse. Though a good first step, the guidelines don’t go far enough to protect innocent business owners and free speech.