Tuesday, April 08, 2003

The RAVE Act returns

From the Drug Policy Alliance:

In an attempt to sneak the “RAVE Act” through the Senate Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) has just introduced the 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.

If enacted, the “RAVE” Act would make it easier for the federal government to punish property owners for any drug offense that their customers commit – even if they work hard to stop such offenses. If enacted, nightclub and stadium owners would likely stop holding events – such as rock or Hip Hop concerts – in which even one person might use drugs. Because of its broad language, the proposed law would even potentially subject people to twenty years in federal prison if one or more of their guests smoked marijuana at their party or barbecue.

CAC opposed the RAVE Act when it was introduced last year in the Senate, and the bill is just as bad today as it was then. This is a naked assault on property rights, and it bears little rational relation to any legitimate government objective, and it certainly does nothing about the drug problem. It simply gives politically-minded prosecutors the ability to manufacture convictions against innocent business owners.

The fact that Senate RAVE sponsors are trying to shoehorn their proposal into an unrelated bill demonstrates just how corrupt the legislative process has become. It used to be an ironclad principle of parliamentary law that a bill addressed only one topic or proposal. The U.S. Congress has long abandoned this rule, and indeed both houses of Congress routinely encourage grafting on unrelated amendments in order to escape public scrutiny over unpopular proposals. Regardless of the RAVE Act’s merits—and there are none that I can see—the proposal itself must nonetheless be debated publicly, and not added on in a closed conference committee meeting.

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