Friday, October 11, 2002

the rave act

My nephew is young and bright and industrious, and likes music. He and a couple of his friends put together a concert in the spring, renting out a hall and booking a number of bands. They didn't lose money, but they didn't earn much either. From what I hear, everyone who attended had a good time. He would like to try to put on more shows, but there's a concern in his household that it might not be a good idea because of some of the rumors circulating about the Rave Act. He's also noticing some hestitation on the part of the churches and firehalls to allow performances from bands.

So, what is going on with the Rave Act? The House of Representatives started looking at a version of the bill within the last couple of weeks, and Delaware's Senator Joseph Biden made a presentation to the Senate this week in response to criticism leveled at the Senate's version of the bill

On October 1, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives called the "Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002’’ or the ‘‘RAVE Act" (pdf). (H. R. 5519). The subtitle of the bill is:
To prohibit an individual from knowingly opening, maintaining, managing, controlling, renting, leasing, making available for use, or profiting from any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance, and for other purposes.
In addition to its initial presentation on the first, it was also sent to the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. On the tenth, it was forwarded to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

The Senate version (pdf) of the bill was introduced on June 1, 2002 (note: the link points to a slightly modified version of the bill, dated June 18th).

On Wednesday, October 9, Joe Biden spoke before the Senate in an attempt to address some of the criticism that has been leveled at the bill. I've reproduced some of his words below, but the text of his whole statement (pdf) is worth taking a look at.
Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, in June I introduced S. 2633, the Reducing America's Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, also known as the RAVE Act. Since that time there has been a great deal of misinformation circulating about this legislation. I rise today to correct the record. Simply stated, my bill provides technical corrections to an existing statute, one which has been on the books for 16 years and is well established.

Critics of my bill have asserted that if the legislation were to become law "there would be no way that someone could hold a concert and not be liable" and that the bill "holds the owners and the promoters responsible for the actions of the patrons." That is simply untrue. We know that there will always be certain people who will bring drugs into musical or other events and use them without the knowledge or permission of the promoter or club owner. This is not the type of activity that my bill would address. The purpose of my legislation is not to prosecute legitimate law-abiding managers of stadiums, arenas, performing arts centers, licensed beverage facilities, and other venues because of incidental drug use at their events. In fact, when crafting this legislation, I took steps to ensure that it did not capture such cases. My bill would help in the prosecution of rogue promoters who not only know that there is drug use at their event but also hold the event for the purpose of illegal drug use or distribution. That is quite a high bar...

...The reason that I introduced the RAVE Act was not to ban dancing, kill the "RAVE scene" or silence electronic music, all things of which I have been accused. Although this legislation grew out of testimony I heard at a number of hearings about the problems identified at raves, the criminal and civil penalties in the bill would also apply to people who promoted any type of event for the purpose of drug use or distribution. If rave promoters and sponsors operate such events as they are so often advertised, as places for people to come dance in a safe, drug-free environment, then they have nothing to fear from this law. In no way is this bill aimed at stifling any type of music or expression--it is only trying to deter illicit drug use and protect kids.
While Senator Biden's statement provides some optimism concerning the bill, it's difficult not to also look at the criticism that he is attempting to address. I've collected some statements concerning the Rave Act from the media and other sources below. Click through the links for more from each:

Law May Link Rave Promoters, Ecstasy
House Members Consider Making Rave Promoters Liable for Ecstasy Use
Associated Press, October 10, 2002
Lawmakers want to go after organizers and hosts of dance parties called "raves" in an attempt to halt the fast-rising use of the drug Ecstasy, which has been linked to damage to the brain, heart and kidneys in American teen-agers.

Raves are often hot spots for the use of Ecstasy and other drugs, and a bill offered by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary crime subcommittee, would make it easier for the government to fine or imprison business owners who don't prevent their customers from committing drug offenses on their property.
US Drug Officials Support 'Rave' Crackdown Law
By Todd Zwillich, Reuters, October 10, 2002
The law would extend current drug penalties to make it illegal for property owners to knowingly rent or maintain property that is being used to manufacture, store or use drugs. Under the legislation, property owners or managers could be fined up to $250,000 if convicted of the offense, even if they are not involved with drug dealing or distribution.
Few complaints about RAVE Act
By Collegian Editorial Board, Colorado State Collegian, October 09, 2002
But this act, as it is currently written, may go too far and may be difficult to prove. The definition of what constitutes a rave or other event may be too expansive, and it may be very difficult for prosecutors to prove that a promoter or business owner "knowingly" allowed drugs to be bought or sold on their premises or at their events.
CULTURE VULTURE: Orrin's Charge on the RAVE Scene May Have Legal Hangover
By Dan Nailen, Salt Lake Tribune Columnist, October 8, 2002
The ACLU has a point. For the RAVE Act to be fair, promoters of all types of music events would have to be held responsible for the activities of the audience. Can you imagine Clear Channel executives being arrested because someone was using drugs at a Delta Center show, or United Concerts people being handcuffed because some '60s throwback was selling acid at the Deer Valley Bob Dylan show?
"Rave Act" Action Alert
Talkleft, October 8, 2002

Chemical Warfare: The RAVE Act
By Will Doig, Metro Weekly, October 8, 2002
At the security checkpoint, a man in a windbreaker asks you to remove your jacket, your shoes and your hat. You lift your arms parallel to the floor and he frisks just about every inch of your body. Your hair is searched. He checks your piercings. You lift up your tongue so he can look underneath with a flashlight. You think, "So this is how produce feels." You pass the inspection, minus one Chapstick.

This is not the scene at airport security on a "heightened state of alert" day. This is a party, and you're in the pre-party phase. Up against the wall and spread 'em. And try to relax...
ASK THE DJ / Evolution's Jon Sutton
By Humberto Guida,, October 3, 2002
Question:The U.S. Congress is considering the RAVE Act, which includes stiff penalties for promoters when narcotics are sold or used at their events. Many fear this will deter people from throwing parties. Would the U.K. dance community tolerate a law like that?

Answer: They tried something like that here once, a law that made it possible for police to stop any party where 10 or more people danced to a repetitive beat. That didn't last for long. But a law like that is just about shutting down dance music -- I wish they would come out and say it.
Study in Primates Shows Brain Damage From Doses of Ecstasy
By Donald G. McNeil, Jr., New York Times, (reg. req'd). September 27, 2002
The amount of the drug Ecstasy that some recreational users take in a single night may cause permanent brain damage and lead to symptoms like those of Parkinson's disease, a study in primates has found.

But critics say that the monkeys and baboons in the study were given huge overdoses of the drug and that the kind of damage the researchers found has never been found in autopsies or brain scans of humans who took large amounts.
Buzz Killed: Legendary D.C. Party Is RAVE Act's First Victim
By empathogen75, September 20, 2002
Before the RAVE Act is even passed, it's having a chilling effect on the dance music scene. It will only get worse after the bill passes. Here in DC, we're going to take the scene back underground, with warehouse parties and map-points, just like it was back in the old days. There's no way this is going to kill the scene. It's just going to put it back into places where they can't see it and they can't control it.
Rave promoters, enthusiasts defend the events
By Steven Hyden and Greg Bump, Post-Crescent staff writers, September 19, 2002
While raves started out as clandestine, Ecstasy-fueled techno music parties held illegally in warehouses in the late 1980s, they have evolved into professionally organized live music events not unlike a conventional concert, he said.

"We’re renting out venues, we’re purchasing insurance, we’re hiring professional security, we’re hiring police. It’s not really a rave, it’s a concert," said Peace, whose legal name is Adam Peterman. "But it’s just the fact that it’s techno music. Everybody has a great misconception about what techno music really is, even though they’re hearing it in car commercials."
Antirave new world
By Evelyn McDonnell, Miami Herald, September 18, 2002
A bill expected to pass the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent this fall could have a chilling effect on Florida's nightclub industry. Senate bill S. 2633, a k a the Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002, or the RAVE Act, would broaden federal standards for prosecuting venues under the so-called crack-house laws, which were designed to stamp out crack cocaine dealers. It would also add stiff civil penalties.

The bill specifically targets dance-music venues, whether they are temporary outdoor raves or established nightclubs. The RAVE Act has raised the ire of the electronic music industry, which brings tens of thousands of professionals and partyers to Miami every year for the Winter Music Conference.
ACLU Action Alert: Oppose Culture War Against Raves!
September 5, 2002
A new kind of social event that mixes an electronic music concert, light show and dancing--popularly known as raves--has been similarly stigmatized. The media often portray raves as dangerous, sinister drug fests and the people who attend them as criminals who only use the events to sell drugs to youth. Raves, however, are a legitimate cultural event just like rock concerts, art exhibitions and film screenings, and are an important outlet for youth culture today.
While I'm happy to see Senator Biden's clarification, I don't think that my nephew will be attempting to promote any concerts for a while. I think that's a shame.

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