Michigan’s Electric Forest festival has been operating since 2011, and each year the public heath group DanceSafe has been in attendance as a vendor—until their booth was unexpectedly shut down mid-weekend at this year’s event.
Operating as one of the leading drug awareness and safety groups in dance music, DanceSafe has become a staple at TomorrowWorld, Imagine Festival, Mysteryland, Lightning in a Bottle, and other electronic music events. Their mission is to provide all festival attendees with unbiased drug information, free water, condoms, ear plugs, and–in some cases–provide free substance testing for any festival-goer that has decided to take drugs.
This drug testing service is their most controversial, but DanceSafe National Outreach Director Mitchell Gomez made clear the company’s policy in a site announcement detailing the incident.
“In recent years, we’ve worked with many event producers who are uncomfortable with providing this service onsite, and in cases where we’ve been asked not to, we never test onsite, sell kits, or provide any other service that is not wanted.”
Beginning Thursday of the festival, the DanceSafe booth began to receive complaints from festival officials about specific services, in which the booth immediately complied by stripping back each service in question. Early the next day, representatives from the festival’s co-promoter (alongside Insomniac) Madison House Presents asked the booth to shut down entirely.
Madison House Presents gave Gomez little explanation for the group’s quick removal, though the DanceSafe has fears that the RAVE Act may played a part in changing the promotion group’s stance on their presence at the festival. Proposed in 2003, the act, whose acronym stands for Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy, prohibits “an individual from… making available for use, or profiting from any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.”
Legal jargon aside, and this act could make any promoter a little leery if they might be considered “making available for use” any sort of substance within their event grounds. Gomez argues that providing harm reduction services should not be grounds for RAVE Act prosecution, in theory.
It’s not new information that people take drugs at raves and, in unfortunate cases, sometimes harm themselves. The rift that comes to the surface of the issue is how festival promoters (and ultimately, higher legal jurisdiction) handle the presence of drugs at these events. Some decide to ignore the use of drugs within festival bounds and opt for stricter prohibition tactics to keep drugs from getting through their entrance at the event’s beginning. Others make sure that guests have all the proper drug information and safety necessities available to them, inviting groups like DanceSafe to help keep their attendees hydrated, informed, and dancing.
Read Dance DanceSafe’s complete recap and reaction to the incident here.