The War on Drugs has been marked by a slow but continual escalation, of sensible-sounding legislation that turned out to be a nightmare, of Congressional quick-fixes that has arguably broken even more lives than the horrors of drug addiction and trafficking themselves.

The RAVE Act is the rare piece of Drug War legislation that was predictably bad and somehow turned out even worse. It was initially introduced by future Vice President Joe Biden in a bi-partisan orgy, co-sponsored by then Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. After failing to pass twice, it was tacked onto the AMBER Alert Bill under a new name:

The RAVE Act was originally sponsored by Senator Joseph Biden, who was also the writer of the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act. Biden attached the legislation as a rider to the bill creating the popular AMBER Alert system, in order to get it passed without debate.


The RAVE Act was intended to expand so-called “crackhouse laws” to penalize owners of buildings (including nightclubs and legal venues) which could be characterized as “drug-involved premises.” It caused an immediate chilling effect, not just at the “raves” it was named after but also among promoters and nightclubs who fear that things like free water or drug education pamphlets would indicate suspicion of maintaining one of these “drug-involved premises.” The penalties are no joke: “Violators can be punished by civil fines of up to $250,000 or twice their gross receipts (whichever is greater), criminal fines up to $500,000, and up to 20 years in prison,” according to Jacob Sullum at Forbes.

More than 20,000 people have now signed a petition being promoted by, a campaign of Protect Our Youth, a 501(c)(3) founded by Dede Goldsmith, the mother of a girl who died of heat stroke at an EDM show.

How bad is the RAVE Act? Even the Department of Justice – presided over by seasoned Drug Warrior Jeff Sessions – has informed Ms. Goldsmith that free water and common sense educational materials about the effects of drug use should be made available at nightclubs and concerts:

Because of these developments, festival promoters and venue owners should no longer fear prosecution under the Act. Furthermore harm reduction activist organizations, like DanceSafe and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), have told me they will begin immediately to use the DOJ responses to justify bringing these vital safety measures to festivals and concerts. Plus, the Justice Department has also opened the door for advocacy groups to work with regional US district attorneys to include other safety measures to make dance music spaces even more safe.


This is a major victory, though it would be more reassuring if the Act were no longer in place at all. It would be nice if many of the people who contributed to this piece of destructive Drug War hysteria (like the former Vice President, Secretary of State and current Senate Minority leader) would join in calling for changing it or its outright repeal.