DEA Uses RAVE Act to Shut Down Fundraiser
Only two months after the RAVE Act was passed by Congress it has been used by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to intimidate the owners of a Billings, Montana, venue into canceling a combined benefit for the Montana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). One of the biggest reasons activists waged a national campaign to stop the RAVE Act was the fear that it would be used to shut down political events like this.
On the day the fundraiser was set to take place a Billings-based DEA agent presented the venue owners with a copy of the RAVE Act warning them that they could face a fine of $250,000 if illicit drugs were found in the premises. The bands -- most of which regularly played at the venue -- were also approached and warned that their participation in the event could result in a fine.
Rather than risk the possibility of enormous fines, the venue decided to cancel the event. This blatant intimidation by the DEA was obviously designed to shut down the marijuana reform fundraiser. Unless the American people speak out against this attack on free speech, the DEA will be emboldened to use the law against other events they do not like, such as all-night dance parties, hip hop concerts, hemp festivals, and circuit parties.
Sponsored by Senator Biden (D-DE), the RAVE Act (also known as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act) was first introduced last year. It proved so controversial then that two of its original co-sponsors withdrew their support because they feared it would send innocent business owners to jail. Business owners collected over 20,000 signatures in opposition to the bill. Protests against it were held around the country and tens of thousands of voters urged their elected official to oppose it. Controversy over the bill stalled it last year, but Senator Biden attached it to the popular "Amber Alert" bill without public debate or a vote of Congress earlier this year and sneaked it into law.
The RAVE Act expands federal law to make it easier to jail and imprison event organizers and property owners that fail to stop drug offenses from occurring on their property -- even in cases when they take serious steps to reduce drug offenses. It applies to "any place", including bars and nightclubs, hotels, apartment buildings, and homes. Legal experts warned that the law was so broad that it could be used to shut down not only raves and electronic music events, but also Hip Hop, rock, and country music concerts, sporting events, gay and lesbian fundraisers, political protests, and any other event federal agents do not like.
On May 30th an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) told managers of the Eagle Lodge in Billings, Montana that the Lodge could be fined $250,000 if anyone smoked marijuana during a planned benefit to raise money for a campaign to change Montana's medical marijuana law. After consulting their attorneys, the Eagle Lodge canceled the event.
The Drug Policy Alliance, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and numerous other organizations have begun a campaign to pressure the DEA to stop using the RAVE Act to shut down political events.