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CLARIFICATION
Is Senator Biden a sneaky bastard?
BY CAMILLE DODERO

Senator Joseph Biden is a sneaky bastard. Or so it seemed two weeks ago, when it was reported that the Delaware Democrat appended a new version of his Reducing Americansí Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act ó a bill first proposed last year that would regard property owners as complicit in the drug offenses committed on their grounds ó to the AMBER Act, widely supported legislation instituting stiffer penalties for convicted kidnappers and child-sex-abuse offenders. " Your glow stick could land you in jail, " warned Salon. Bidenís last-minute addition, now called the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, would hold any business liable for the drug use of its customers, itís been alleged. And this could kill not only dance parties, raves, and all-night loft parties, but everything from Burning Man and Lollapalooza to a barbecue in your own back yard. " In theory, if you have a party or a barbecue and your neighbors decide to smoke a joint, " says Bill Piper, associate director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, " your house could be considered the equivalent to a crack house and the [government] could throw you in jail or fine you. "

Not so, insists Biden spokesman Chip Unruh. Unruh points out that the billís wording specifies that property owners would have to " knowingly and intentionally " let drug users, manufacturers, or distributors use their place to be held accountable. " Youíre not going to be liable for someone who smokes marijuana at your house unless you put out fliers saying, ĎCome smoke marijuana at my house,í  " says Unruh. " Thereís a reason concert promoters arenít out there screaming about this bill. "

While Unruh may have a point ó this particular bill might require prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a property owner was aware that people were using the place for drugs ó it does leave some gray area for events like, say, MASSCANN/NORMLís annual Freedom Rally. Could the organizers of a hemp rally be held responsible for every drug arrest at their event? " Is the purpose of it for people to smoke marijuana, or is it for people to learn about hemp? " says Unruh. " The federal government would have to prove that the purpose was smoking marijuana. "

Itís such potential loopholes that make Bidenís law seem sneaky.

Issue Date: April 25 - May 1, 2003
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