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DanceSafe.org : Raves and Club Drugs in the News : US LA: Editorial: Raving Lunacy
Pubdate: Sat, 25 Aug 2001
Source: Times-Picayune, The (LA)
Copyright: 2001 The Times-Picayune
Contact: letters@timespicayune.com
Website: http://www.timespicayune.com/
Fax: (504) 826-3369


The prosecution of local rave promoters under a federal "crack house" law was ill-conceived from the start -- so much so that, two months after a plea bargain was supposed to end the case, the whole matter is still tangled up in court. 

After complaints about rampant use of ecstasy and other drugs at all-night raves at the State Palace Theater in New Orleans, a grand jury indicted theater manager Robert Brunet, his brother Brian and rave promoter Donnie Estopinal in January on charges of maintaining a building for the purposes of drug sales. 

The prosecutors' case was never strong.  Nevertheless, a company run by Robert Brunet pleaded guilty in June and agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.  ( Charges against the three men themselves were dropped.  ) In the plea bargain, the company also agreed to ban glow sticks, pacifiers and other rave-related items from future events at the State Palace Theater. 

Now some rave fans say that ban is keeping them from expressing themselves at raves.  The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit this week to lift the ban on glow sticks and pacifiers.  And on Thursday, U.S.  District Judge G.  Thomas Porteous issued a preliminary injunction that blocks enforcement of that provision. 

Granted, it's peculiar that an outside party is trying to involve itself in a plea bargain that has been accepted by prosecutors, defendants and a federal court.  And it's not clear why people who run a party in a privately owned building can't ban glow sticks if they want to -- or if federal prosecutors browbeat them into doing so. 

But there was no good reason to include the ban on glow sticks in the Brunets' plea bargain in the first place.  It won't keep anyone from using ecstasy or other so-called club drugs, any more than a ban on tie-dyed clothes and Grateful Dead records would keep anyone from smoking marijuana. 

The U.S.  attorney's office must decide whether to appeal the decision, but the ban on glow sticks is not worth fighting for. 

From a humanitarian perspective alone, rave promoters should try to make sure that their customers don't get hurt by abusing illegal drugs. 

But the plea agreement in the State Palace case wouldn't prevent such abuse.  It was a declaration of war on the trap-pings of rave culture, but it was unlikely to cause any appreciable improvement in the well-being of ravegoers. 

Before Judge Porteous on Thursday, prosecutors made arguments that they themselves must have recognized as silly.  While Assistant U.S.  Attorney John Murphy allowed that glow sticks and pacifiers are not drug paraphernalia, he also insisted that they help enhance the high caused by ecstasy. 

Truth is, though, anything that is visible and has a smell, taste, sound or texture -- which is to say, any object at all -- can cause a sensory rush of some sort.  Why single out glow sticks?

The June plea bargain was a convenient way out of the case for everyone involved.  The Brunet brothers escaped going to jail.  Prosecutors got to claim victory in their efforts to fight drugs at raves. 

But in the end, the deal was little more than feel-good justice.  And its only real consequence is that a bunch of people may end up spending more time in court. 

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