After the recent deaths of two young ladies at Hard Summer, Los Angeles is moving to ban music festivals from the county. The ban headed by causing uproar between Los Angeles officials and the rave community all over again. The interesting thing is both sides are arguing for the same thing: safer festivals and less tragedies. The only difference is their approach. LA County Board of Supervisors are for a ban on raves at county facilities while festival enthusiasts are calling for a different solution – one that addresses the problem in a more realistic way. So how exactly can we prevent drug related deaths and injuries from occurring?
The Los Angeles Times calls Hard Summer the largest music festival held in the county. Hard Summer grew from 40,000 to 65,000 attendees this year. Many music festivals including Hard Summer have a set zero tolerance policy for drugs. These policies require intense physical searches at the gates to prevent these drugs from entering. This year, security was not lax requiring many attendees to take off their shoes as well as consent to a pat down and the typical bag check. Those suspected to be involved in drug usage are often arrested or escorted out of the event on sight.
These preventative measures do not stop drugs from getting in. Where there is a will, there is a way. As you can see from the aftermath of the festival, despite all the effort, attendees still were able to smuggle substances into the venue. The war on drugs has shifted public opinion into zero tolerance drug policies, but these policies have not proven to prevent deaths or injuries. This shows us it’s time to rethink our approach.
From an insider’s perspective, while we don’t condone drug use, the best way to keep attendees safe is to allow on site drug testing and drug related information. If attendees know what they’re taking and how it’s going to affect them, at LEAST they will be taking them more responsibly. The importance of drug education has become a hot topic of debate this festival season. While some may disagree, these measures do not condone usage at all, but they will be a more effective measure to prevent drug related injuries and deaths.
The Bunk Police and DanceSafe are two reputable organizations that promote on site drug test kits. While many feel that these two organizations actually promote drug use with their tactics, the general consensus for festival enthusiasts is that both organizations are ultimately promoting safety. The Bunk Police was kicked out of Bonnaroo recently, a move that was widely disputed in the EDM community. It’s important to understand that you cannot actually control a mass of people – even if you’re the President. People will do what they want and the dangers of drug use, especially with an unregulated market and little to no drug education, results in tragedies like this one. It turns out there are many, many factors involved with a typical MDMA related “overdoses” including heat, dehydration, prior health conditions, and ignorance to what people are actually putting into their bodies. A mix of chemicals can easily turn into a deadly concoction and without means to test and understand exactly which substances are present and how to take care of yourself to prevent heat strokes and dehydration, a fun day can turn into a tragic night quite quickly.
On top of that, users who may be experiencing negative side effects are not inclined to seek medical attention for fear of getting in trouble. Many times, it is medical attention at the first signs of risk that could save lives. And lastly, it’s important for festivals to provide safe venues for their attendees. Sure, security is great and helpful in some ways, but there was very little shade at the Fairplex this past year and access to cold/cooler water and ice was limited. Festivals have to step up to the plate on this as well. Sure, for 21+ attendees, the Smirnoff tent was a great place to cool off, but for attendees who were not of age as the two lost members of our family were, there was no place to seek adequate shelter. Free water that is of GOOD QUALITY needs to be present at every event and EASY access to cool areas a must. Furthermore, if we ban raves it’s not like that would help prevent drug use or lessen the chances of drug related deaths – which is what the county is pushing for right? People will still be indulging in whatever they please, just at a different place.
It’s time to start thinking about society differently and taking a different approach as we can already see that prohibitions and using a heavy hand is ineffective at best and encourages a more dangerous market in general. We need to give safety and education a chance at reducing the amount of drug related injuries and deaths we see both at these events and outside of festivals.
Tampa based writer, photographer, and electronic music aficionado.