Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) in an attempt to sneak controversial legislation through the Senate introduced the RAVE Act into conference committee as an add on to the National AMBER Alert Network Act of 2003 (S151). S151 is a bill about child abduction that has nothing to do with drug policy issues. The RAVE Act, in contrast, has not passed a single committee this year. In addition, it was so controversial when it was introduced last year that two Senators withdrew their sponsorship. The RAVE Act is a bill that would make it easier for the federal government to punish business owners for the drug offenses of their customers -- even if they take steps to stop such activity.
S151 has passed the Senate and House and is now in Conference. If the Democrats are successful in their efforts to attach the RAVE Act onto an unrelated bill, it is likely to become law without ever having a public hearing, debate or a vote. Opponents of the RAVE Act argue that it would put innocent business owners at risk of criminal prosecution, threaten free speech, be detrimental to public health, and could be used by overzealous prosecutors to target racial minorities or politically unpopular groups. "Far from protecting kids, the RAVE Act puts them at greater risk," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Arresting club owners will drive dance music and other events underground and away from the safety and security measures that legitimate venues provide."
"The Democratic party - with all of its recent struggles - is certain to alienate key minority and youth voters who are likely to lose night club spaces and be placed at greater risk because of this bill," said William McColl, Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "It is unbelievable that Democrats would take on this controversy as they seek the votes of the people who stand to be most adversely affected by the legislation."
Opposition to the RAVE Act continues to grow. The Drug Policy Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, concert promoters, the electronic music community and others spent the day making calls and telling legislators to protect business owners by halting the attachment of the RAVE Act.