Fans of electronic dance music are urging local leaders not to ban raves at venues run by L.A. County government.

The Board of Supervisors this week voted unanimously to have its legal advisers explore the possibility of banning electronic dance music festivals at county venues.

The move came after the deaths of two teenagers who attended last weekend's HARD Summer event at the county-run Fairplex in Pomona. Speculation about the deaths centers on the stimulant ecstasy, a familiar killer at dance festivals. But coroner's investigators likely won't determine why both women died until toxicology tests are complete in four to six weeks.

The county attorneys' recommendations are due in two weeks. 

Supporters of the scene have started a petition urging the supervisors to drop any initiative that would ban the parties:

 … You CANNOT place blame on festivals for the tragic accident that occurred. We ask that you don't use festivals as an easy way out of a problem. The problems is not the festivals, it's the drugs. The organizers of these festivals did not supply anyone drugs. You have to understand if you think banning festivals will take care of the problem, you're wrong. The person(s) that gave them or sold them the drugs are still out there.

The proposal to explore a ban was introduced this week by Supervisor Hilda Solis, who said, “I am deeply troubled by the fact that this is the third such death to happen in my district in the last year and a half.”

The weekend's victims were identified as 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen of West Covina and 19-year-old Katie Dix of Camarillo. Nineteen-year-old Emily Tran died after attending last year's HARD Summer event at the county-run Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. Coroner's investigators concluded that Tran perished as a result of “acute MDMA intoxication.”

The county formed a task force on raves following the 2010 ecstasy death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, who had sneaked into Electric Daisy Carnival at the government-owned L.A. Coliseum.

The Coliseum and its sister venue, the L.A. Sports Arena, shut out raves following fallout from a corruption case that alleges rave promoters paid a venue manager under the table for access.

Electric Daisy Carnival moved to Las Vegas, where it has seen an average of one death a year in five years.

Some of the county task force's recommendations, including strict age limits, tighter security and beefed-up medical staffing, have become standard at raves following political controversy over Rodriguez's demise. And, since then, HARD was purchased by the nation's largest concert promotion company, Live Nation, which also took a stake in Electric Daisy Carnival's promoter, Insomniac Events.

The result has been that the concerts are certainly run more professionally than ever. But the deaths still take place.

There's long been a movement in electronic dance music to institute “harm reduction” education that urges MDMA users to stay hydrated and beware of “bad batch” pills and adulterated drugs. However, many of the deaths at raves are the result of using what turned out to be just ecstasy, which can ultimately cause vital organs to shut down. Drinking too much water while using the drug also can lead to death.

The move to blame adulterated ecstasy and poly drug use has led many fans to believe pure MDMA is safe. Some events have hosted pill testing tents, so fans can know — and somehow feel more assured — when they have actual ecstasy in their pockets. 

Credit: Mathew Tucciarone/L.A. Weekly

Credit: Mathew Tucciarone/L.A. Weekly

The Cow Palace in the Bay Area staffed up with extra paramedics, invited in 100 undercover narcotics detectives and instituted harm reduction education for concertgoers after raves sent dozens and dozens of partygoers to hospitals there more than five years ago. “We basically had worse results,” venue CEO Joe Barkett told us in 2010.

In fact, the very first rave that took place under the Cow Palace's new policies saw two ecstasy-related deaths. Barkett said to his board of directors that he was “unable to tell you with any confidence that any increased level of security or other measure will prevent these kinds of overdoses from occurring.”

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors also voted this week to have public health officials “explore options for a culturally competent education campaign on the adverse effects of ecstasy and other drugs.”

The petition is asking the board to also give stricter security measures another try:

We ask not to quickly judge and assume the drug problems are from these festivals and stopping them is going to make it go away. We ask to take into consideration other ways to make changes to keep the festivals in L.A. County (ex: more undercover officers/security and/or changing the age limit).

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