HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Rave On At Club Senate
Pubdate: Thu, 01 Aug 2002
Source: New Haven Advocate (CT)
Copyright: 2002 New Mass Media, Inc.
Author: Brita Brundage
Bookmark: (Raves)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


The RAVE Act Seeks To Shut Down Dance Events And Prosecute Everyone Involved

The poor American rave scene. Even those not attracted to all-night dance 
fests, drum and bass thumping or bright, baggy pants have got to sympathize 
with the ravers, the DJs, the promoters and the club owners subjected to 
such constant heat. Not since the advent of the hippie movement has law 
enforcement taken such a disliking to a music scene, capitalizing on 
Ecstasy use as the greatest evil the drug culture has yet seen and casting 
everything associated with raves--from glow sticks, to pacifiers, bottled 
water to blow pops--in a sinister light.

Having failed in the past to effectively land any promoters or owners 
behind bars, the Drug Enforcement Agency has found a few avid supporters in 
Congress to make their rave arrests stick.

Cleverly titled the RAVE (Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy) 
Act, this bill seeks to modify the 1986 "crackhouse law" to prosecute any 
employee of any club where someone is caught doing a drug. The language is 
broad enough to trap anyone in its net, inclusive enough to target such 
accoutrements as "over-priced bottles of water," "'chill rooms'," and "neon 
glow sticks," and the bill is serious enough to bring federal 
charges--$250,000 or more in fines and jail time. Simply put, the RAVE Act 
could shut down the safe electronic scene for good, shoving it back into 
the illegal factories where ambulances don't stand at the ready and drug 
use is not monitored at all.

"If it's forced back underground, there's not going to be police, there's 
not going to be the insurance, there's not going to be safety measures," 
says Sarah Ficca, a.k.a. Madame Buddafly, a New Haven-based DJ who makes a 
living spinning records. "It's going to be back in the factories, and the 
DJs will be less inclined to treat it as a business," she says.

Sponsored by Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs members Dick Durbin (D-IL), 
Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the 
bill is considered so uncontroversial that it quickly passed the Senate 
Judiciary Committee. Now they are trying to pass the RAVE Act under 
"unanimous consent rules," meaning it would be passed without a roll-call vote.

"That's generally for non-controversial items like declaring a certain week 
to be National Broccoli Week," says Graham Boyd, director of the Drug 
Policy Litigation Project with the national American Civil Liberties Union. 
The senators, he says, "didn't realize the implications, which is that 
instead of targeting drug users, the bill targets music, dance and other 
activities protected by the First Amendment. It also targets legitimate 
businesses." Thanks to the ACLU, the federal court ruled that glow sticks, 
pacifiers, Vicks VapoRub and flashing lights did not constitute "drug 

The Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund (EM:DEF), a non-profit 
group based in California, has been fighting these targeted attacks by law 
enforcement and federal agents for years, trying to protect industry 
professionals and educate the public about electronic events.

Gary Blitz, coordinator for EM:DEF, sees the RAVE bill as a blatant ploy to 
corral tax dollars.

"The national youth anti-drug media campaign came up for renewal," says 
Blitz. "They need a crisis to rally behind [to] ask for more money." The 
proposal for the bill reaches into elaborate explanations about Ecstasy 
use, claiming that, "Because rave promoters know that Ecstasy causes the 
body temperature in a user to rise and as a result causes the user to 
become very thirsty, many rave promoters facilitate and profit from 
flagrant drug use. . . by selling over-priced bottles of water." It goes on 
to add, "Ecstasy mentions in emergency visits grew 1,040 percent between 
1994 and 1999." That percentage sounds sensational, says Blitz, because it 
tells only a partial story.

"A lot of the different counties, police departments and states haven't put 
questions about MDMA into their surveys until recently," says Blitz. "If 
you go from not even having a question on a survey, and it goes from no 
cases to a hundred, that's a [huge] increase." When compared with other 
drug-related emergency visits, MDMA is hardly a top contender. "The rave 
culture is an easy target because it doesn't have the corporate 
underpinnings and backing that some of the other festivals do."

If the federal government is truly interested in preventing drug use, Blitz 
and other electronic music supporters believe in working with the venue 
owners to provide emergency vehicles, police events and prosecute those who 
are using and selling drugs.

"Stopping raves and shutting down clubs doesn't work," says Matt Hanrahan, 
a promoter with Kingsize USA Inc., a New York-based promotion company that 
sponsors dance events as well as jazz, reggae, rock, hip-hop and others. 
"Kids will find something new and probably worse to take and new and 
unregulated venues to party at."

"A good club owner is one that provides a chill room and provides water," 
says Boyd of the ACLU, "because those are both measures which greatly 
reduce the chances of someone dying from Ecstasy. This bill does the 
opposite. If you provide an air-conditioned room and water, that's a sign 
that you know people are using Ecstasy and you can be punished for it. It's 
completely counter-productive."
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