Dance clubs, concert halls and even outdoor festivals are in danger
of being put out of business thanks to a new piece of legislation
that passed in Congress on April 10th. According to the bill, any
individual who owns or operates a venue where audience members are
using drugs could be sent to jail or subjected to steep fines.
Sponsored by senators Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Orrin Hatch
(R-Utah) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the bill was tacked onto
the Amber Alert Act, concerning child abductions — a move
opponents say was intended to avoid close scrutiny. (The new law is
a revision of an earlier proposal known as the RAVE Act, an acronym
for Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy.)
“It isn’t just a threat to the rave community,” says William
McColl, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance,
“but to any community that isn’t liked by the majority — hip-hop
events, gay and lesbian circuit parties, even rock & roll shows
like the Grateful Dead or Phish.”
McColl acknowledges it could be years before anyone is
prosecuted but says the law may scare off promoters and keep them
from holding raves. Biden was unavailable for comment, but his
office directed Rolling Stone to speak with the
Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
“We’re not anti-rave,” says that group’s spokesman, Howard
Simon. “This isn’t like John Lithgow in Footloose telling
people, ‘Good God, don’t dance.’ This could help authorities to go
after the few bad apples turning a winking blind eye to drug
Donnie Estopinal, the New Orleans promoter who was
unsuccessfully prosecuted in 2000 under the federal “crackhouse
statute,” doesn’t see it that way. “This law will definitely have
an effect on whether promoters can get access to venues,” he says.
“Just the threat of being prosecuted is enough to scare people
“We already search the hell out of everybody,” he continues.
“It’s harder to get into a rave than it is to get on an airplane.
We’re forced to treat our customers like criminals before they even
get in the door.”