In the early 2000s, when raves and Ecstasy were driving legislators to distraction with visions of young people getting high and fucking, Biden emerged as the champion of the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, which also went by the god-awful acronym The RAVE Act (for “Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act”).
The kink in the RAVE Act was that it not only stiffened all sorts of penalties for making or selling drugs but also for allowing them to be used. The law prohibited “knowingly opening, maintaining, managing, controlling, renting, leasing, making available for use, or profiting from any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.” If you owned a club or a house or even an open field and enough high kids showed up, you’re screwed.
The ironic-yet-entirely-predictable twist? By criminalizing any knowledge of drug use, the RAVE Act actually increases the likelihood of bad outcomes. If event organizers acknowledge drug use and try to pass around harm-reduction literature or staff intervention services, they’re putting themselves at risk. “Promoters,” wrote Tammy L. Anderson in the journal Contexts, “even told me that “rave” language on flyers or other promotional materials could serve as evidence of a legal violation. If they offer drug intervention services, such as drug testing and education, promoters may be at even greater legal risk.”