Remember the federal RAVE Act, which was controversial when introduced last fall, then added to the popular Amber Alert bill without hearings? It was designed to crack down on promoters of all-night music parties at which, according to drug enforcement authorities, young people like to use the drug MDMA, or “ecstasy.”
Critics claimed the RAVE Act could be used to suppress free speech and legitimate concert events, but sponsor Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware assured them it would only be used against “rogue” promoters.
Well. The first known use of the act was by a DEA agent in Billings, Mont., who went to the owners of the local Eagles Lodge that was to be rented for an event by proponents of putting a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. The agent sternly informed the club owners that unless they could absolutely guarantee that nobody at all would use any illicit drug whatsoever during the event, they faced fines of $250,000 and 10 years in jail.
Using “public safety” concerns to suppress a political event? The lodge canceled the event, but Sen. Biden got word (through a fax campaign by reform advocates) and contacted the DEA. The DEA said the local agent had misinterpreted agency policy, and this sort of thing wouldn’t happen again.
After Sen. Biden’s letter, the DEA announced it had revised its guidelines for enforcing the act, and that agents would have to call headquarters before enforcing it. The guidelines have not been made public.
If an agent has to call headquarters to find out how to enforce the law, how is a concert promoter, venue operator or event organizer supposed to know how to comply? Congress ought to just repeal this objectionable law.