Proposed Crackdown Targets Drugs at Raves

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Allow ecstasy and go to jail, say state and federal law makers who want to restrict the rave party scene, which is associated with illegal drug use.

Two pieces of state and federal legislation, if passed, will make it more difficult to promote raves, dance parties which some legislators say foster drug culture.

Federal legislation, dubbed the RAVE Act and introduced by U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), proposes a crackdown on rave promoters. The act would add a $250,000 minimum civil liability clause to existing criminal penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and a possible $500,000 fine for owning a club that encourages, publicizes and facilitates drug use.

The California legislation, AB 1941, approved unanimously in the state Assembly, requires rave promoters to prove they are "sufficiently knowledgeable about illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia" before they would receive a required permit to hold rave events. Promoters would also have to notify law enforcement before holding an event.

The state Senate Committee on Public Safety is reviewing the bill.

"There are raves which are compromising people's safety and it is important that the state look at this very closely," said Adam Mendelsohn, spokesperson for state Sen. Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz) who is chairing the bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged both pieces of legislation. Officials argue that the legislation unfairly targets raves .

"AB 1941 singles out electronic dance music events for a higher level of governmental scrutiny and a more difficult permit process," wrote Francisco Lobaco, legislative director of the ACLU of Northern California, in a letter to state Assemblymember Sally Havice (D-Bellflower), the bill's author. "Other events, such as a heavy metal party, a wedding party, or a religious concert would not trigger the same high level of scrutiny and difficulty. The government cannot be in the business of deciding what kind of parties it likes or what kind of music constitutes a 'threat."'

Many ravers argue that the state and federal bills are an attack on their way of life.

"This could mean the temporary destruction of a culture," said Kenny Kamrin, a former ASUC senator and co-founder of Sonic Insomnia, UC Berkeley's promoter of on campus rave events.

Kamrin helped organize two campus raves, School House Rock in November 2000 and Pandemonium in April 2001. Both events were held in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and were a "positive thing on campus," he said.

People do not go to raves to do drugs-they go for the music, Kamrin said.

Because raves generally do not exclude ravers based on their age, the parties attract youths who cannot go to local bars and clubs.

Tomas Palermo, editor of XLR8R, a national magazine which covers electronic dance music culture, said that instead of restricting raves, legislators need to provide more entertainment outlets and forums for young people. He said social events geared toward those under 21 years old are seriously lacking.

"That is why you have so many kids in gangs in California," Palermo said.

Palermo acknowledged that the state should play a role in controlling substances that could be harmful to kids and that club promoters should be more "vigilant" about drug use in their clubs. He said, however, the state and federal governments should focus on other issues.

"The government is all high and mighty when it comes to taking drugs, but on different issues such as pesticides used in agriculture and the use of petrochemicals there is little regulation," he said.


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