"Amend the RAVE Act" Campaign Spurred by Death of Young Woman at EDM Event After Using MDMA
Proposed Reforms Would Allow Event Producers to Include Drug Education, Onsite Harm Reduction Services
NEW YORK, NY – Dede Goldsmith, whose daughter Shelley died last year at an EDM event in Washington D.C. after taking MDMA, is now committing her life to make these events safer. Goldsmith is launching a campaign to “Amend the RAVE Act,” federal legislation initially passed in 2003 that holds event producers criminally and civilly liable for any drug use by their patrons.
Goldsmith’s proposed changes to the Act would provide protection for event producers who want to pursue strategies like incorporating onsite drug education, peer-to-peer counseling, safe spaces, and other harm reduction services. She spoke last week at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Conference in Arlington, Virginia to gain support for her campaign among young people.
Goldsmith’s daughter Shelley died from heat stroke after taking MDMA. Stimulant drugs like MDMA increase the risk of heat stroke by inhibiting the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature. Combined with crowded venues, this can lead to hospitalizations and deaths like Shelley’s. Heat stroke, whether drug-related or not, is the most common medical emergency at EDM events. Goldsmith says that responsible, comprehensive protection of their patrons by the event organizers, including peer drug education and counseling services and sufficient medical emergency personnel on site, might have saved her daughter.
“I don’t believe it was ever the intention of the RAVE Act to discourage common sense public safety measures at these concerts,” Goldsmith says. “But in today’s music scene, that is exactly what is happening. Those measures are not being implemented and organizers point to the RAVE Act as the reason why. By amending the RAVE Act, we will protect millions of young people and prevent the kind of tragedy that happened to me and my family.”
Goldsmith is taking aim at the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, commonly known as the RAVE Act, the original title of the legislation, which was sponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden. Its full name, the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerabilities to Ecstasy Act, was indicative of the anti-Ecstasy hysteria that peaked in the late 90s and early 00s. The drug, whose scientific name is MDMA and is currently popularly known as molly, was demonized in federally-funded campaigns that turned out to be based on fatally flawed research.
This law, based on the crack house statutes drafted in the 1980s, holds event and venue owners criminally and civilly liable for the drug use of their patrons. Goldsmith wants the language changed so that event producers won’t have to fear prosecution for having accurate, life-saving drug education onsite, provided by youth volunteer groups like DanceSafe, and make other changes to the layout of their events that might indicate knowledge of drug use and in the past have made them be seen as a target instead of a responsible actor.
A broad coalition of drug policy reform and harm reduction groups have signed on to support the campaign.
“It’s incredible that Dede has transformed her grief into an effort to make positive change,” says Stefanie Jones, nightlife community engagement manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the groups in the support coalition. “Her campaign has the potential to help prevent other deaths and reflects a more honest and effective approach to drug use at music events.” Other groups include AMPLIFY, DanceSafe, the Electronic Music Alliance, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Students for Sensible Drug Policy and online advocate for safety The Festival Lawyer, who gives general legal advice to festivalgoers.
Currently, Goldsmith is collecting signatures on a petition in support of the campaign, with the help of groups like AMPLIFY that set up at music events. AMPLIFY’s fall 2014 show schedule and blog post about their support can be found at http://ssdp.org/news/blog/amplifyfall2014/.
For more details about the campaign and who is supporting it, contact Stefanie Jones at the Drug Policy Alliance.
Sign the petition: http://www.amendtheraveact.org/sign-the-petition
Campaign webpage: http://www.amendtheraveact.org