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Joe Biden wanted to ban raves, jail promoters in 2001 ecstasy hearing

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Former Vice President Joe Biden— a 2020 presidential candidate — said in a 2001 Senate hearing that he believed local officials should criminalize rave parties and “lock up” promoters in an effort to crack down on ecstasy.

The hearing, hosted by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, was over the RAVE or “Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act”, a bi-partisan piece of legislation that Biden introduced and sponsored in an effort to bolster federal regulation and crackdowns of the party drug ecstasy, also known as MDMA.

“I think this is a local problem,” he said about raves, parties at which ecstasy is commonly taken. “If I were governor of my state or the mayor of my town, I would be passing new ordinances relating to stiff criminal penalties for anyone who holds a rave, the promoter, the guy who owns the building, I would put the son of a gun in jail, I would change the law.”

During the hearing, Biden — who had a long record of cracking down on drugs and drug use during his 36 years in the Senate — expressed concern that unless the federal government regulated the drugs and local governments stepped in to stop raves, ecstasy could become the latest fad drug to sweep across the country.

He continued: “There’s no doubt about where these raves take place, in the middle of the desert. Arrest the promoter, and find a rationale unrelated to drugs. For example, I’m the guy who authored the crackhouse legislation. We can use the crackhouse legislation to tear down these buildings.”

The “crackhouse legislation” Biden referenced is a section of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 he co-sponsored called the 1986 Emergency Crack Control Act, which gave the federal government greater authority to shut down “crackhouses” and punish their owners and managers.

Read more: Evidence is mounting that psychedelic drugs can help treat diseases. Here are the most promising uses.

As Politico Magazine reported last month, the law specifically made it a federal crime to “rent or use” any place for the purpose of “manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance” and allowed authorities to prosecute those who “manage or control any place…and knowingly…make available for use, with or without compensation, the place for the purpose of unlawfully…using a controlled substance.”

Within the context of ecstasy and raves, Biden said the law could be applied to crack on clubs and buildings where raves take place.

More recently, public health experts told Politico Magazine that the “crackhouse law” is now a major impediment for cities and towns who want to limit overdose deaths by creating safe injection sites, which allow people struggling with addiction to inject heroin with clean needles and under the supervision of medical professionals.

Biden said in the hearing: “I know of no other drug I’ve been exposed to studying that has such a profile in the circumstances under which its consumed as this drug,” later adding, “so I think we better send out a message to the local officials that if you are able to eliminate the circumstances and the places under which raves took place and/or policed those which on their face are legitimate, you would cut into this in an incredible way.”

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