Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jul 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Contact:  2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Michael Stoll
Bookmark: (Club Drugs)
Bookmark: (Raves)


Raves, it turns out, are not what we have been brainwashed to think. They
definitely are not sweaty, high-decibel, all-night drug bazaars. 

How could members of Congress ever think such a thing?

No, event promoters argue, raves are cultural events. Raves are musical free
speech. Raves are art.

Not everyone buys that. Certainly not a bipartisan group of senators,
including Delaware Democrat Joe Biden. The lawmakers say raves are thinly
veiled drug parties, and want to hold event sponsors financially and
criminally responsible.

Lawmakers are pushing through a bill called the Reducing Americans'
Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002, which would change the existing "crack
house" law to include movable events, typically raves. It would make it a
felony for a sponsor to provide space for illegal drug use.

The legislation -- along with a similar dancehall liability bill in
Sacramento -- is sending waves of revulsion through the electronic music
community, which is particularly strong in the tech-savvy Bay Area.

The fight is making political activists out of partyers, who say their very
way of life is threatened.

"To use this drug-war paranoia to argue that electronic music is just a
gathering for drug use is ridiculous," said guitarist Nick Fynn, who
moonlights as chairman of legislative action for the San Francisco Late
Night Coalition. "They've been trying to scapegoat the music community."

Opponents include club owners, independent event promoters and other
coalition members, who until now have been caught up in rather more
pedestrian issues like permits and neighborhood noise complaints.

Event sponsors feel targeted for clamping down on a drug culture they did
not start. 

Drugs, they say, pervade many other subcultures and venues. How can an
organizer know for sure that none of the 2,000 people in a warehouse came in
already high on methamphetamines or GHB? And why should the organizer go to
jail if someone else overdoses?

"We're essentially banning a type of music, and that's unconstitutional,"
said John Wood, legislative analyst for the Late Night Coalition, who also
runs Tatra Productions. "It's just going to cause young people to rise up
against it."

The Assembly bill would require sponsors to sign an affidavit saying they
realize that drug use often happens at raves, and pledge to eradicate it.

"It's not anti-rave whatsoever, it's not against the music," said Mike
Steinman, spokesman for Assemblywoman Sally Havice, D.-Cerritos, who
sponsored the bill.

"The concern is about the illegal and often deadly practice of taking
ecstasy. If they can have the parties without that, great. No one would want
their kids or grandkids to take ecstasy and possibly die."

Gus Bean, president of party-promotion company Gus Presents, puts on monthly
dance parties for a gay clientele. He said raves have gotten such a bad name
because of drugs that no one calls them raves anymore. But the crackdown
continues, he said.

"All this comes down to government and law enforcement cracking down on
something because they don't understand it," Bean said. "I don't condone or
support the use of drugs in any of the events I produce."
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