On April 11, the war on drugs took another dangerous turn with a new piece of legislation. The RAVE Act, supposedly a masterstroke against drug users in this country, instead became a piece of vaguely defined police state rhetoric. To sum it up quickly, the RAVE Act is designed to allow the government to punish business owners if they “knowingly” allowed drug use to happen on their property. Even though it looks fine and legal, the RAVE Act is anything but.
Under its Senate name, the Illicit Drugs Anti-Proliferation Act (which I will still call the RAVE Act) was “secretly” added to Tom Daschle’s bill S. 22 — a domestic security bill. The two bills piggy-backed each other. Since no congressman dared to vote against a homeland security bill, the RAVE Act passed, 98-0. This vaguely worded bill poses a danger to business owners and innocent citizens everywhere.
First, a definition. The RAVE Act and the Illicit Drugs Anti-Proliferation Act are almost the exact same bills. As previously mentioned, the RAVE Act gives the government the power to prosecute business owners if drugs are used or sold on their property. Even if business owners did all they could to keep drug usage out, they still can be charged with a crime if one person sneaks through. If tried in a civil court (where proving guilt is easier than in a criminal court), an arrested business owner can face a fine of up to $250,000. If tried criminally, there can be up to a $500,000 fine and up to 20 years in jail. All of this for someone who never actually took drugs, and who may not even have known that drug-related activity was taking place on his property.
But wait, it gets better. The bill says the owners can only be tried if they “knowingly” allow drug usage to take place. “Knowingly” and words like it in the bill are so vaguely defined that they could mean almost anything. If a promoter invites a jam band onstage, does that mean they “knowingly” allowed drug usage to take place? Fans of jam bands often smoke dope, so does that mean that the promoter “knowingly” allows dope? The RAVE Act doesn’t say. Of course, this leads to profiling of musical artists. And, theoretically, couldn’t you take drugs at a Sesame Street Live concert? I don’t think that promoter “knowingly” promoted a pot-friendly band, but the punishment for him would be the same.
Also included in S. 22 is the “crack house law.” To sum it up, if drug usage takes place on your property, then you can be charged as well. Once again, even if you did all you could to keep drug deals away, you could still be charged.
This is ridiculous. Imagine this legal mold being used to treat other crimes. If you were a shopkeeper and someone robbed you, then you could be arrested, too. After all, you did fail to keep a robbery from happening in your store.
The “crack house law” also makes it a federal crime to use a place “temporarily” for drug usage. Since federal law overrides state law, the RAVE Act would also make it illegal for a landlord to rent to someone who uses medical marijuana.
The war on drugs cannot even keep drug usage out of prisons or schools, but now they want to keep it out of businesses, too. It has failed time and time again, but is always expanding. The RAVE Act is so poorly defined and can be executed so liberally that innocent people could be punished for others’ indiscretions.
Evan Ross is a student at Indiana U.