An anti-drug bill known as the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act was introduced to the Senate last summer, with the intention of eradicating the illegal use of MDMA from clubs, raves and electronic music venues across the country. Yet instead of going after the drug users and the dealers, the legislation targets event promoters, venue managers and landowners. A week after its June 18 introduction, the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee without a public hearing or a recorded vote. As providence would have it, the RAVE Act was not passed before the adjournment of the 107th Congress and therefore died as a bill in late 2002.

Unfortunately, a far more malignant incarnation of the bill has now come into consideration on the Senate floor. It is no longer named the RAVE Act and is wider in scope than the original legislation; it is now called the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (S. 226). The legislation comes under the auspices of Sen. Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) domestic security bill (S. 22), but has been introduced as a stand-alone bill this year.

If enacted, the legislation threatens to harm innocent businessmen and stifle free expression. In effect, the bill would make it possible for federal prosecutors to fine and imprison any individual owning an establishment in which any drug was being peddled or used. The legislation would also make it a federal crime to temporarily use a venue, public or private, for the purpose of consuming an illegal drug.

Hypothetically, anyone throwing a party at which one of their guests is using any sort of illicit substance, could potentially face a $500,000 fine and a maximum of 20 years in a federal prison. Under the legislation, organizers of Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash could also be held accountable for the indiscretions of its peaceful protesters. Additionally, the provisions of the act also make it illegal to rent property to medical marijuana patients, giving the government a new weapon against AIDS and cancer patients who use marijuana in a responsible manner in order to relieve their suffering.

The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation legislation is perhaps the most appalling measure in this nation’s excessive and unjust war on drugs to date. Its proposals vindictively punish individuals for the crimes of their customers. The passing of such a bill would allow the federal government to scare individuals away from legitimate social gatherings and restrict activities aimed at youths.

The unholy bipartisan war on drugs has gone too far with the introduction of this new, renamed RAVE Act. Legislators have resorted to improper techniques, seeing that their past policies have failed; hard drugs still flood schools across the nation, the streets are still awash with dealers. However, the federal government continues to punish the innocents with their own inequity. The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act should be stopped dead or the American public will see another unnecesary blow to its civil liberties.

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