It could be said that the present day version of sex, drugs and rock & roll is text, drugs and EDM. Live events of electronic dance music, commonly known as raves, are often associated with the use of drugs. And sadly, deaths at raves — sometimes due to impure drugs and dehydration — are common.
To address this public health issue, Congress in 2003 passed The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, colloquially known as The RAVE Act. There’s language in the law that incriminates festival producers if they are found to be “knowingly maintaining a drug-involved premise.” As a result, the act makes it difficult for drug education services — and even free water — to be offered at EDM festivals, because that acknowledges drugs are on the premises and implies that drug use is condoned.
One group that is trying to prevent drug-related emergencies at raves is called DanceSafe. When we spoke with Kristin Karas, the non-profit’s Manager of Health Communications and Programs, we asked about her organization’s prevention efforts, given that — to many people — raves and drug-use are almost synonymous.
I don't think that it's necessarily true that raves and drugs are synonymous. However, I think that the rave scene has definitely gotten more press about certain sorts of drug use. But in terms of what DanceSafe does — as a public health non-profit, we provide services coupled with literature. For example, we have free water and information about heat stroke; free condoms and information about consent; free earplugs because people so often forget about their hearing; and when possible we provide free drug [testing] and factual, unbiased drug information.
Because of the clause in the existing legislation, some venues and promoters are wary of allowing organizations like DanceSafe into their events because having them on site could be considered — as the law reads — "maintaining a drug-involved premise." A movement to correct the ambiguous language is called the Amend The RAVE Act Campaign. Karas explained that Vice-President Joe Biden, one of the sponsors of the original legislation as a U.S. Senator, never intended to target responsible event producers.
What they were actually looking for was to crack down on underground raves that were using the rave as a front for the drug scene. Now that raves are mainstream, we are now seeing some unintended consequences where these event producers or venue owner are understandably fearful of being prosecuted under The RAVE Act.