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Party now, prison later

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Concert promoters and club owners: Be very afraid. Your business is in danger thanks to a rider three U.S. senators tacked onto the federal Amber Alert bill, which became law April 10.

According to the bill, club owners and concert promoters can be fined or imprisoned if an audience member is found to be using drugs. It doesn't matter whether the promoter knows of the drug activity or even if he tries to prevent it. In fact, Congress first became alarmed about rave drug activity after a New Orleans club promoter, Donnie Estopinal, successfully fought his arrest under the federal crack-house statute.

"There's a lot of bad law made on sensational cases," says William McColl, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization working to promote new drug policies.

Nobody knows what might happen. "We don't know what kind of prosecutions we will get," McColl says.

It remains questionable whether overworked federal prosecutors will make time to investigate drug possession in clubs. Then again, the feds weren't too lenient on Estopinal, who assisted agents before he was arrested. "He wasn't doing drugs," McColl says. "He wasn't dealing drugs. He wasn't allowing drugs in his clubs. He was helping the DEA investigate drug dealers in his club."


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