Billings, MT: A scheduled concert to raise funds for a local NORML/Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) affiliate was shut down last week after the venue’s management was informed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that they could potentially be fined $250,000 under provisions of the newly enacted “RAVE Act.” The law, formally known as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, permits federal law enforcement to prosecute business owners and event organizers if they make their property available for “the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.” The incident is believed to be the first time the law has been used to prohibit a public event since it was enacted in April as an amendment to the Child Abduction Prevention Act, also known as the “Amber Alert” bill.
NORML Foundation Director Allen St. Pierre said that the DEA was abusing its authority under the new law, which was intended to target those who maintain known drug dealing establishments such as crack houses, to target political speech and the drug law reform movement. “This is absolutely what we feared and predicted would happen if the RAVE Act passed,” he said. “Preemptively shutting down a First Amendment-protected event is something that shouldn’t happen in America.”
St. Pierre noted that similar concerts had taken place periodically at the Billings venue without incident. “This action by the DEA had nothing to do with concerns over drug use and everything to do with quashing free speech and preventing groups like NORML and SSDP from raising funds and registering voters to advocate for a position that runs contrary to the federal government’s,” he said.
St. Pierre added that the NORML Foundation – along with a coalition of drug law reform groups including SSDP, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), and the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project – are considering filing a federal lawsuit to enjoin the new law as unconstitutional. “The DEA’s actions should be of concern to all Americans who value the right of free assembly under the First Amendment,” he said. “Left unchecked, the precedent here is truly frightening.”