The Senate is poised to pass legislation that would give federal prosecutors new powers to shut down hemp festivals, marijuana rallies and other events and punish business owners and activists for hosting or promoting them. The proposed law would also potentially subject people to enormous federal sentences if some of their guests smoked marijuana at their party or barbecue. It would also effectively make it a federal crime to rent property to medical marijuana patients and their caregivers.

The bill, known as the Reducing American's Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act (RAVE Act), was just introduced in the Senate on June 18th and has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is moving VERY rapidly and could be passed by the Senate as early as this week. While it purports to be aimed at ecstasy and other club drugs, it gives the federal government enormous power to fine and imprison supporters of marijuana legalization, even if they've never smoked marijuana.

The Senate is considering legislation that would give federal prosecutors new powers to shut down raves, marijuana rallies and other events they don't like and punish businessmen and women for hosting or promoting them. The bill (S. 2633), also known as the Reducing American's Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act (RAVE Act), is moving very rapidly and could be considered by the full Senate as early as this week. (A similar bill is also pending in the House.)

S. 2633, sponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Hatch (R-UT), Grassley (R-IA) and Leahy (D-VT), expands the so-called "crack house statute" to allow the federal government to fine or imprison businessmen and women if customers sell or use drugs on their premises or at their events. Property owners, promoters, and event coordinators could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars or face up to twenty years in federal prison if they hold raves or other events on their property. If the bill becomes law, property owners may be too afraid to rent or lease their property to groups holding hemp festivals or putting on all-night dance parties, effectively stifling free speech and banning raves and other musical events.

The new law would also make it a federal crime to temporarily use a place for the purpose of using any illegal drug. Thus, anyone who used drugs in their own home or threw an event (such as a party or barbecue) in which one or more of their guests used drugs could potentially face a $250,000 fine and years in federal prison. The bill also effectively makes it a federal crime to rent property to medical marijuana patients and their caregivers, giving the federal government a new weapon in its war on AIDS and cancer patients who use marijuana to relieve their suffering.

Health advocates worry that the bill will endanger our nation's youth. If enacted, licensed and law-abiding business owners may stop hosting raves or other events that federal authorities don't like, out of fear of massive fines and prison sentences. Thus, the law would drive raves and other musical events further underground and away from public health and safety regulations. It would also discourage business owners from enacting smart harm-reduction measures to protect their customers. By insinuating that selling bottled water and offering "cool off" rooms is proof that owners and promoters know drug use is occurring at their events, this bill may make business owners too afraid to implement such harm-reduction measures, and the safety of our kids will suffer.

The RAVE Act punishes businessmen and women for the crimes of their customers and is unprecedented in U.S. history. The federal government can't even keep drugs out of prisons, yet it seeks to punish business owners for failing to keep people from carrying drugs onto their premises. If this bill passes, federal authorities will have the ability to scare business owners away from using or renting their property for marijuana festivals, as well as any other "politically incorrect" event.

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