Rave Rigamarole

Mallory Jensen
Santa Fe Reporter
July 24, 2002

With terrorism and corporate corruption staining the country, you’d think lawmakers had better things to worry about than parties.

You would be wrong. US Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., among others, is very concerned about one particular type of party: The Rave.

So much so, he’s introduced the RAVE Act (Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy).

The act is in response to the commonly held belief that raves are characterized not only by electronic music and day-glow jewelry, but by the drug Ecstasy as well. The proposed law explicitly mentions certain components of raves, such as chill rooms and glow sticks, as proof that raves are just an excuse to “exploit and endanger America’s teenagers.”

The RAVE Act reworks an existing law aimed at crack houses to allow prosecution of outdoor functions (in areas like New Mexico, raves take place outside during nine months of the year). It also lowers the “standard of proof [required] for civil charges,” and the costs that clubs will absorb to avoid penalty will run them out of business, says Bill Piper, the Associate Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Opponents dispute the characterization of raves in the act, and say it also could harm innocent partygoers. “The New Mexico rave scene is healthy,” proclaims rave promoter Grant Burke. “There are a lot worse things going on here.” Geoff Chesshire, director of PartySmart (a New Mexico organization encouraging knowledge and responsible behavior at raves) says, so far “New Mexico is lucky that people here haven’t gone overboard in cracking down,” but that fear and mistrust are making it hard for ravers to find places to go. In fact, says Burke, “I’m looking at having to cancel a date in August” because no one wants to risk renting space to raves.

But New Mexico raves aren’t about illegal behavior, say ravers like Collin Couch: “Community is a big part of the rave scene, where kids can gather and meet new friends and have a place where they can feel a part of something.”