Meet the People Who Want to Make It Safer to Take Drugs at Festivals
Earlier this month, two teenage girls died at the HARD Summer music festival in Ponoma, California, reportedly from “suspected drug overdoses.” Less than two weeks earlier, an autopsy confirmed suspicions that Nicholas Austin Tom, a 24-year-old Californian who died at the Electric Daisy Carnival in June, died due to MDMA intoxication. The deaths are only the latest in a string of drug-related fatalities linked to EDM concerts in recent years – part of a trend that’s led to a major shift in the live music industry. Some festivals have responded to the mounting pressure by bending toward zero-tolerance drug policies: After two people died at Electric Zoo in 2013, the festival required the following year’s attendees to watch a D.A.R.E.-like anti-Molly PSA and stepped up law enforcement efforts with drug-sniffing dogs and heightened gate security. Following the deaths at HARD Summer, one Los Angeles County official went so far as to suggest a temporary ban on raves. At the same time, some organizations have taken another approach: acknowledging the prevalence of drugs in the scene and working to integrate harm reduction services on-site at festivals. Two of the most prolific such groups are DanceSafe, a drug-education organization with a bent towards checking the chemical makeup of drugs, and the Zendo Project, an initiative that provides safe spaces for people undergoing unpleasant psychedelic experiences.