The Drug Policy Alliance, an influential pro-marijuana group that supported the pot legalization initiative in California last year, is backing the L.A. County Department of Public Health's controversial how-to-take ecstasy fliers that were to be aimed at young ravers.
The group released a statement Thursday in favor of the cards, and Meghan Ralston, harm reduction coordinator for the organization, told the Weekly that DPA wants the department to distribute them despite opposition from county Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
"I completely support this effort to make responsible fact-based correct info available to people," she said.
Antonovich directed the health department to put a stop to distribution of the fliers, citing the county's "zero-tolerance" stance toward illicit drug use. Ecstasy is a Schedule I outlaw drug and has been responsible for about one rave-related death in each of the last five years in L.A., according to previous reporting by the Weekly.
The death of 15-year-old raver Sasha Rodriguez following last year's Electric Daisy Carnival at the L.A. Coliseum inspired both the county's "zero-tolerance" declaration and its drug education effort that would have workers hand the fliers out to ravers not only at "massives" held four times a year at the publicly owned Coliseum and Sports Arena but at raves throughout the county.
That seems to be up in the air, however, as Antonovich is trying to put a stop to the fliers. (It's not clear to us if the order of one supervisor is binding; it appears that a majority vote in the five-supervisor board would be, however).
The controversial fliers, first brought to light by the Weekly, tell ravers to:
" ... Aim low (dose AND frequency) ... take frequent breaks ... [and] stay hydrated."
Ralston of the DPA subscribes to the argument that if young people are going to party and do ecstasy, they mind as well do it safely and in an environment where there's plenty of security and medical personnel.
"We know that these are realities," she said, referring to ecstasy use at raves. "If you can't stop 100 percent of all of that activity 100 perecnt of the time then let's do whatever we can to ensure young people stay safe and don't O.D. and don't die."
And, despite controversy over these events at public venues -- Electric Daisy Carnival in June saw more than 200 medical emergencies -- Ralston says it's better if they stay.
"I certainly know it's infinitely preferable to have these things exist in an environment where police are standing by, ambulances are standing by, and information is being distributed about how people can make good choices" about illegal drug use.
In the Weekly's cover story on raves in December we found little evidence to support the argument that if parties like Electric Daisy Carnival didn't happen 160,000 people who would have attended would be "forced" into a myriad of unsafe underground events instead.
For one thing, it's hard to fathom enough "underground" parties to handle 160,000 kids. On a normal weekend there's one, maybe two "underground" events widely promoted in the L.A. area. For another, we found there's no evidence to support that smaller or underground parties end up producing any ecstasy-related deaths in the last five years or the kind of hospitalizations seen at the massives.
Some sources theorized that the massives attract weekend warriors who anticipate partying on a grand scale because they only happen four times a year, including in June, later in summer, Halloween and New Year's Eve.
Others argued that the very fact that these large events are publicly sanctioned, by elected officials such as Councilman Bernard Parks, actually increases their danger because parents let their teenage children attend thinking they're music festivals rather than ecstasy parties.
"I was going to them when they were truly underground," Ralston says, " -- no police no ambulances. The worst thing we can do is take these kinds of events and drive them back underground."
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While folks like Ralston and the DPA argue that it's "common sense" to teach young people how to do ecstasy properly -- if they're going to do it -- they can't find the common sense in declaring that ecstasy is a primary part of the draw and culture of these parties and that, as rave expert and former LAPD narcotics Officer Trinka Porrata told us, a vast majority of attendees are on ecstasy.
"I absolutely disagree with that," she said. (Although she did refer to it as a "primary drug we knew people were using").
"My analysis is to look an whatever research or evidence exists," Ralston said. "Use common sense."
We can agree on that.