There shalt be no lollipops in the brave new rave-free world.
On the first day of the coroner's inquest into the death of Allan Ho, the 20-year-old who died from ecstasy-related causes at a rave last October, the police picked on lollipops. All those kids, they had suckers in their mouths. They must be on E, cuz those raves -- those raves -- they are just dens of sin.
Here's hoping that the cops' predictable spin on raves and drugs doesn't destroy what could be a golden opportunity in this all-out showdown between harm-reduction and prohibitionist responses to drug use.
The Toronto Dance Safety Committee and the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force have been granted standing at the inquest along with police, the city and others.
No one is denying that there are drugs at raves and that there are health concerns about their use, but nobody denies either that there are drugs everywhere. Only 3 out of the recent 9 ecstasy deaths in Ontario were rave-related, and, in fact, most E fatalities are not caused by the drug itself, but rather by the effects of dehydration.
Harm-reduction techniques accept the inevitability of drug use and do their best to alleviate their ill effects. Obviously, socially conservative anti-drug forces oppose this model, but this isn't the time to let questionable notions of moral purity get in the way of saving lives.
Nor is it the moment to let a new police chief pick a sexy issue to shoot out of the gate with and build his career on a suburb-soothing, headline-grabbing war on drugs.
Only two days in, the testimony of emergency and security staff from the night of Ho's death has already raised several possible points of improvement for safety.
These include more flexible in/out policies for access to fresh air, visible directions to first-aid areas, mandatory training for paramedics in dealing with drug-related symptoms, better communication between security and medical personnel and stricter regulation of room temperatures. These are all things that nobody, no matter how subversive they think they are or how many times they randomly moan "back in the day', could argue with.
Partying will not die either. Hordes of 16-year-olds aren't going to wait until they're old enough to go to clubs to get their fix, which leads to the oft-repeated concern that a clamp-down on raves will only push them underground into even less safe conditions.
If this inquest does not come down on the side of advancing harm-reduction policies rather than enforcing a doomed law-and-order response, this entire process -- and perhaps even Ho's tragic death -- will have been in vain.