I suppose the best way to begin this would be to thank everyone who felt compelled to share what I wrote three weeks ago about the relationship between Molly and the culture of EDM music. Over the past three weeks, I’ve thought a great deal about what I wrote, but also what many of you wrote. Believe it or not, I read all the comments, responded to as many as possible, and then even read comments on other websites and message boards where my essay was posted. At this point, I’m relatively sure the “EDM bros”[ref]Yes, you. The asshole in the tank top, wearing knockoff Wayfarers, pumping your fist in the air as your lacrosse hair blows in the wind.[/ref] of the world have called me every euphemism for “homosexual” there is in the dictionary. The only thing I can do is grin and shake my head at the various assaults on my character; I’m not a “salty former drug dealer,” or “a washed up manager of some no names.” Thanks for all the kind words anyway.
After reading all the emails, messages, comments, tweets, etc., I have observed three recurring arguments against my original essay.
Argument A: “People have consumed drugs and alcohol since long before EDM or Molly ever existed. My mom/dad did drugs at Woodstock. My grandpa/grandma used to smoke blah blah blah, with name drop of some jazz singer. Can you prove dinosaurs weren’t doing crack? What if an asteroid never hit the Earth, and it was just a dinosaur crack epidemic?”
Argument B: “People are only dying because they’re not doing the right drugs. Pure Molly is perfectly safe. I always buy a test kit, and if you don’t, you’re just being stupid. You’re being an alarmist asshole, and focusing on a few people who couldn’t handle their drugs, when the majority of us are responsible. More people are killed by shark attacks than MDMA overdoses. Go watch ‘Shark Week,’ dick.”
Argument C: “You completely overstated the problem. Molly isn’t like other drugs. There are no cartels. That’s just something the media made up because they need to scare people into watching the local news at 11. People like you make me sick, making up wild stories about drug cartels, just to stir up fear, and drive traffic to their website.”
Before I move forward, I feel like I need to address each one of these common misconceptions, one by one. At that point, it’s up to you to disagree with me any further, but as my mom used to say, “Well I’m right and you’re wrong. Deal with it.”
Argument A doesn’t hold water because I never said Molly and EDM were the causation, nor the effect. In fact, I’ll be the first to agree that alcohol is extremely dangerous. I’m too lazy to move my hand over to my mouse right now, but if I wasn’t such a lazy piece of shit, I’d probably find some fairly alarming data regarding vehicular deaths involving alcohol. However, alcohol is different than Molly because it’s regulated. Bartenders aren’t supposed to over-serve you, even though we know they do anyway. Even so, in order to get drunk enough to cause harm to yourself, there is a process involved. The equation is pretty simple to follow. “So, the more of this I drink, the better I am at dancing?” Alcohol is as dangerous as the volume of it you consume. Have a beer or two? Drive home. Have a dozen? Be on Vine, moonwalking, with a lampshade on your head. Like I said–this can get dangerous.
Despite my best efforts over the past eight years, I have been unable to overdose on marijuana–and believe me, I’ve tried. During my days in Pleasanton, Calif., my friend James and I smoked blunts that closely resembled the arm of an extremely muscular baby. I take my marijuana research seriously, and at some point later this evening, I’ll once again attempt to overdose on marijuana. If by some small chance I do manage to overdose on marijuana tonight, know that I died with a stupid grin on my face.
Some of you named various other illicit drugs, but I just don’t see the correlation they have to music. Personally, I don’t know anyone who does heroin and then gets active about their nightlife. Sure, cocaine has always been around, but I don’t see many people defending its merits with the same veracity. I believe the consensus on blow is, “It is expensive. It gives you energy for about 20 minutes, and then you need to do more of it.” From my purely anecdotal perspective, I’d wager more people my age are struggling with Adderall and other prescription stimulants, not cocaine. A discussion for another day.
Molly is different than most other drugs because of the way it is consumed, where it is consumed, and the myriad ways people package it. This brings me to . . .
Argument B. This is the most annoying one of all, because it’s just wholly untrue. Even if your dealer is “totally the coolest dude in the world,” and he gives you 100-percent pure, uncut MDMA, you don’t know how your body will react. The same goes for pretty much all substances you put into your body. You know how all those medication advertisements on television have a long list of disclaimers on them? That’s because despite us all being human, everyone is a unique snowflake, and just because you’re OK doesn’t mean your friends will be too. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (here in the U.S.) tests medications intensively, often for years, in order to make sure unintended side effects aren’t causing serious damage, or perhaps even death. Molly is not safe for everyone, even in small amounts.
For instance: What I commonly refer to as a “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” is known to my friend Tynan as “death on bread,” because he’s allergic to peanuts. All substances are not created equal for all people. Understand?
Let’s move on to the Mocktails (Molly + Cocktails = Mocktails, my portmanteau game is strong), and cover what I mentioned in my previous article. Drug dealers aren’t regulated by anyone, anywhere. If they have a scrupulous customer, perhaps they’ll have pure MDMA. However, even a scrupulous customer with a testing kit on hand won’t be able to know the difference between MDMA, and MMDA–because they test the same, even though they’re different substances. If the aforementioned drug dealer only intends to sell his wares at large festivals, then all the rules go out the window. The buyers will all be young people, likely under the impression that everyone is doing Molly, so it can be cut with just about anything. Drug dealers with even a weak grasp on economics can understand a very basic concept: If your customers are, with almost 100 percent certainty, only going to be one-time customers, then there is zero incentive to supply what is advertised. Don’t believe all those nice things you hear about drug dealers; some of them can be downright criminal.
Speaking of criminals, let’s get to Argument C. If there is one prevailing theme about the commentary, it’s about how I was lying about the economic scale of it all. No one wants to believe Molly is being peddled in massive quantities by violent criminal organizations. “That’s just something the cops make up to continue getting funding for the war on drugs.” When I was at my peak volume selling Molly, the people I was dealing with were violent, murderous drug lords. When large quantities of controlled substances are bought and sold, there is always a high likelihood something may go south, and people could die. When bullets start flying, it’s not always drug dealers that get hit–sometimes it’s the residents of the predominantly poor communities where the drug dealers live.
Judging by my Google Analytics numbers, the traffic on my original essay spiked on September 5, and rose even higher on September 6. If you live in Atlanta, any story about Molly on your Facebook timeline was probably mine. In my original essay, I spoke about drug dealers with pounds of Molly descending upon the Atlanta metro area, preparing for TomorrowWorld. For many of you, this assertion was a bridge you could not cross. The collective reaction from the Southeast was, “No way. We’re going for the music. There is no way that much Molly is coming into Georgia, just for one event. This article is all lies.”
Argument C completely falls apart because I can prove that you’re wrong. On September 5, two men were arrested in Atlanta with 40 pounds of Molly and over a dozen shotguns. From my perspective, this only makes sense: Atlanta just doesn’t have a regular demand for 40 pounds of Molly. There aren’t enough people in the city for any sane drug dealer to have that much inventory on hand. It’s a massive security risk, unless you’re sure you can move it all, rapidly. It just so happens 150,000 potential customers were going to be 30 miles away, just two and a half weeks after the bust was made. (Insert cheesy “Loose Change” coincidence music.)
A drug bust of this magnitude should have made more of a blip on the radar in Atlanta, but as of my writing this essay, it was only shared 84 times on Facebook. My original article was shared 20,000 times on Facebook (and another 48,000 times over on Kiss My Angeles–thanks Sarah!), 800 times on Twitter, and 32 times on Google Plus. I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Who the fuck still uses Google Plus?” Yet the sheer numbers were overwhelming against that drug bust getting any publicity, because people were talking about my article instead of a massive drug bust.
Molly is a turbulent, violent business. When someone purchases Molly, their insatiable need for partying is directly funding massive criminal organizations. These criminal organizations use violence and death as a means of protecting their profit margins. You cannot clear your conscience of this irrefutable evidence, because two days after “Finding Molly” went live, 40 pounds of Molly was found less than a 25-minute drive from the site of TomorrowWorld. This story isn’t isolated, because Atlanta is just one city, and TomorrowWorld is just one festival. The business model exists elsewhere – therefore, drug networks will supply all the logistics and violence.
So. What now?
For starters, I want to knock all the ideological fantasy answers out of the way.
1. There is absolutely no way Molly would ever be legalized. I mean, come on, Captain Delusion. We can’t even get marijuana legalized. Legislators in this country think two guys holding hands is gross. If my elected representatives aren’t comfortable with same-sex marriage, it’s definitely safe to assume they’d be opposed to a substance that causes you to get euphoric and possibly be more likely to rub your parts on someone of the same sex.
2. No matter how many times people read this essay, or essays like it, drugs are going to keep on being sold. Molly is built into the EDM culture, more so than it is any any other genre of music.
3. Molly will continue being inherently dangerous. It doesn’t hurt or kill everyone who uses it, but sometimes, terrible things happen.[ref]Unless you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, in which case you just live in a endless state of terrible.[/ref] It might be you, or it could be one of your friends; you take the wrong pill, or snort the wrong powder, and all of a sudden, you’re in a wretched place.
Anyone can identify the problem. It takes effort to provide a solution. That’s what I’m offering.
Fans of the former HBO series “The Wire” will be familiar with the concept of “Hamsterdam.” Season 3 of the series revolved around offering amnesty to drug dealers and users operating within defined terms of a geographic area.
As a quick recap for non-Wire fans, the Baltimore Police Department was faced with a dilemma: It didn’t have the resources to effectively control the drug trade within one problematic section of the city, so Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin goes rogue, having a town hall meeting with the residents of the Western District. Colvin explains to the residents of the town hall meeting that he’s aware of the problem, and that the current solutions haven’t worked. The residents are shocked, but also amazed with his candor and honesty. They feel it is the first time someone has finally been honest about the landscape of the problem. They rally around him.
Right now, I feel this television show is analogous to what I wrote about Molly. Over the past few weeks, I have received hundreds of emotional emails from people all over the world, telling me that what I wrote made them feel normal and sane again. I read your horror stories, about watching friends overdose, or even your own tales of mind-bending fear and anxiety–when you felt like you were on the brink of life.
Senator (now Vice President) Joe Biden’s Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act is simply an analogue for the “stop and frisk” measures of the Baltimore police. The legislation in front of us has been outgrown by the culture it was meant to address, and is now inappropriate for the times. It doesn’t matter how many “dirty” promoters or venue owners get busted with a couple pills or gram bags, there will always be someone to take their place, just as new “corner boys” always reappeared in the fictionalized Western District. People will continue going to EDM events and consuming MDMA; it doesn’t matter what the name of the promoter, venue, or the DJ is. The culture is bigger than that now.
And now, a knuckleball . . .
Welcome to Hamsterdam.
What I’m about to propose is going to sound to many of you like the widespread decriminalization of drugs, so just to be clear–that’s not what this idea is all about. I’m only saying that it’s time the EDM community starts acting like the family it espouses itself to be. No more secrets. No more “turning around and pretending you didn’t see that happen.” No more fearing what might happen if you ask for help. No more pretending people aren’t getting hooked on Molly. If everyone in the EDM community collectively decides to help themselves, rather than bending to legislation, we can fix this. If we advocate a culture of safety, health, and honesty, we can correct the course of this ship before it maroons itself on the rocks.
Part I. We need a return of safe, “cool down” areas to EDM events. If we all acknowledge that people are going to do drugs, and it’s just something that happens, then we should also be able to acknowledge that every person deserves to be safe, healthy, and well. If you’re not feeling OK, there needs to be a place you can go and sit down, chill out, drink water, maybe even get a bag of ice and put it on your head. What I’m advocating here isn’t a new idea, because I have seen it before–it just seems like these safe zones at events are on the decline. Every event space is different, so venue owners, managers, and promoters will need to help move this idea into reality.
Part II. Call out the idiots promoting over-consumption. We’ve all been around that guy/girl who loudly says, “Oh my God, I just took six Mollys! I’m gonna go so hard!” No, stupid. You’re going to fucking die. Perhaps it’s just my experience, but I feel like the normalization of the Molly culture has led to a rise in the level of consumption–and that’s not safe, OK, or cool. Perhaps if you don’t die, you’ll just be like one of the four people at Electric Zoo who ended up hospitalized in critical condition. Permanent organ damage isn’t so bad, right?[ref]Brandon Weeden wasn’t such a bad draft choice, right?[/ref] Even more horrifying was the report from Electric Zoo, describing the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl who was left under a van without her pants. Before I’m subject to a Jezebel airstrike, I just want to state for the record: She wasn’t raped because she did drugs. She was was raped because some asshole raped her. Speculating on why a victim became a victim is a dicey science at best, but if this young woman took so many drugs she was incapable of defending herself from a rapist, that’s just incredibly sad. (Obviously, someone could have just drugged her and raped her, in which case the story has a totally different slant. But I digress . . .) Young women need to understand that consuming MDMA makes you less in control, and might alter your judgement enough for a rapist to put something in your drink, etc . . . ANYWAY. . . If someone near you loudly exclaims, “I just took six beans!”–take that clown to a hospital immediately.
Part III. Know what you’re taking. This will probably be the hardest step, because it’s going to require promoters, venue owners, managers, and other people involved with the logistics of operations to tacitly acknowledge they are breaking Vice President Biden’s “illicit drug law” in order to do the right thing. Sometimes, doing the right thing is the hardest thing to do. It’s going to take courage for any venue owner, manager, or promoter to start supplying testing kits to people who ask for them–but that’s what needs to happen. People will continue sneaking drugs into events, and they will continue sneaking off to the bathroom to do key bumps with their friends. So, my message to venue owners, promoters, managers, agents, and everyone involved in the logistics of making these events happen: It doesn’t mean you’re “facilitating the sale of illicit drugs”–it means you’re treating human beings like human beings. Sell people testing kits, and let them sneak off to the bathroom and test what is in their pocket. If it turns out they bought more than they bargained for, you may have saved a life. I have a hard time finding a negative with that.
Part IV: The artists on stage and their managers need to step in front of this issue. In my last essay, I stated I was leaving the music business–and I thought I was, but things changed. So I’ll be sticking around a while. While I’m not going to name my clients specifically, I want it to be known that the artists I work with will be spearheading a campaign of safety and transparency–so if you’re another artist manager like me, know that you’re not wading into this alone. I’m jumping in the water first. The security, promoters, venue owners, and various other logistics personnel will all be informed of our transparency agenda before every event. (And if you’re not willing to accept the current landscape and reality, we’ll just find other people to do business with.) If you’re not feeling well because you consumed Molly, or another club drug, you should be able to tell any person working at the event that you need medical attention–with the full knowledge that we’re going to be completely confidential about everything you tell us.
I want each and every person who attends an event I’m at to know they can come talk to me, honestly and frankly. I know how reality is. If you see me at an event, and something is amiss, my only priority is going to be health and safety.
Example: “Hey Shane, I need your help. My friend isn’t doing so hot. He/she took like four Mollys man. Just don’t tell his/her parents dude. They’re paying for his/her college, and it will fuck his/her whole life up if they find out.” At that moment, I’ll understand what’s going on, and I’ll make sure your friend gets the medical attention they need, without you having to worry about exterior life factors coming into play. Now, let’s just say your overdosing overdosing is on his/her parent’s health insurance, and he/she doesn’t want any billing or paperwork to end up in front of his/her parents–I’ll take steps to make sure that gets taken care of. If that means I have to go to the hospital with you and make sure the people billing the health insurance company know the bill needs to be sent to an address at your dorm, I’ll make it happen. (Granted, if we’re dealing with a minor, it’s inevitable that their parents will find out but look, kids, seriously, don’t do drugs. Let your brain breathe a little before you go destroying it.)
We all make mistakes sometimes. I understand that, and the artists I work with understand that. We’re not going to penalize you for the mistakes that you make. Coming close to a drug overdose should be enough of a reality check for most people anyway.
Part V: Our return to safety and sanity needs to be the prevailing majority, and it needs to be universally understood this is the new way things are going to be done. This only works if everyone in our community gets behind this. This isn’t a message mocking law enforcement, because I respect the hard work that the men and women of law enforcement do. We’re not thumbing our nose at their job and saying, “We do drugs, and you can’t stop us from partying.” What we’re doing is more of a pat on the back, calmly stating, “We know you’re just enforcing the laws you’re sworn to protect. We get that. Keep doing your job–but we’d like for you to help us be safe. If we see you at an event, we want to know that we can come to you with our overdosing friends, without fearing you’re going to frisk them down and be more concerned with finding two pills still in their pocket.”
These are the cold, pragmatic realities of what happens, and we all know it. When I was replying to the emails I received, a few were from law enforcement officers applauding my honesty and candor. I know we’re all on the same side here, and I know we’re not that far apart when it comes to solutions. The primary job of law enforcement is public safety. That’s what I’m espousing with this solution, so hopefully, we can all get on the same page.
It all really come down to a very simple message, which I’m going to boil and reduce into an idea. “Be safe. Word?”
(Download High-Res, Transparent PNG – Right Click or Command + Save As
Open Source, Public License, No One Owns This, Use It Whenever and Wherever
If you want a .PSD file, talk to me on Twitter or something?)
The concept of a “safeword” isn’t one I invented. I’d also be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the overt sexual connotation–but I got a giggle out the duality of it, so let’s just go with it. Conceptually, this makes sense for what we need to accomplish as a community. In BDSM circles, using a safeword means things have gotten too much for you to handle, and you need to stop, without judgement. In that regard, I feel its purpose is well served here as well. If you’re at an event, and things have spun out of control for you, a friend, or perhaps a stranger you’re just looking out for–you should be able to remove yourself from the situation and know your safety is the primary concern, without fear of repercussions or judgement.
I provided this PNG file for everyone to universally know and understand as a secret handshake, for lack of a better term. I encourage my peers in the music business, specifically the EDM genre, to adopt this idea and imagery into their creative files. If you don’t like my creative skills, make your own image–just make sure it says “safeword.” (Every graphic designer I have ever met is probably shuddering right now, saying something snarky. “I could have made that way better.” Thanks for singing the ballad of every graphic designer, ever. Go make a really awesome one, and make sure it ends up on as many flyers as possible. It’s the idea the matters, not the picture.)
When you see “safeword,” or this image subtly, somewhere on an event flyer, you’ll know that it means the event you’re going to is being run by sane, pragmatic people, who care about your safety. Maybe a couple enterprising young venue managers will make it into a sticker and put it in a visible place near will-call. Whatever the case, it’s going to take courage for many of you to start embracing this concept, because it also means you’re skirting some well-established legislation, and there is a chance you’re opening yourself up to the remote chance of being prosecuted under the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act.
Law enforcement officers performing event security should see this image on an event flyer, and understand the people there will see them as a public health resource, rather than someone with a badge and a gun to be avoided at all costs. If you’re a law enforcement officer reading this, I’m trying to appeal to your reasonable, logical side here: I know you’d rather potentially save someone’s life, rather than watching them die because they were afraid you’d be mad about one or two pills the stowed in their pocket.
Promoters, venue owners, venue managers, and other people involved should be proud of putting “safeword” on their event flyers and promotion material. It sends a strong message when you say, “I’m willing to do the right thing, even if the legislation is heavily slanted against me.” By no means does “safeword” mean event staff is endorsing the sale of illicit drugs, despite was the IDA-PA might lead you to believe. Maybe I’m just just being coldly logical here, but endorsing safety does not mean you’re also assisting people in the sale of drugs. If security pats you down at the door, and you’ve got several pre-bagged mini-ziplocs of Molly on you, expect to be kicked out of the venue. It doesn’t benefit a venue owner or their bar staff if you’re spending your money on drugs instead of beer and liquor. The fiduciary incentive to protect their business is still intact.
No longer will the national media be able to sensationalize this problem, because our community will finally be able to take accountability for the problems we face, and offer a solution. Currently, all the articles being published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Gawker, etc. portray EDM events and festivals like the wild west, but with more annoying kids with light-up gloves, beads, and glowsticks.[ref]Seriously though, PLUR kids, you know you look silly as hell, right?[/ref] Sensationalism sells stories, drives clicks, and gets the 40+ crowd freaked out enough to think we have a major epidemic of rabid rave children, hula-hooping their way through a drug wonderland.
As of this writing, TomorrowWorld is just a few short hours from starting, so there is no better time for a catalyst a giant festival to shift the public perception. When TomorrowWorld is all said and done, we need to give the media a story they’ll have a hard time selling:
“TomorrowWorld was a great success, everyone had a fun time, and no one died, because the EDM community decided to address the elephant in the room, like rational, level-headed adults.”
I’d love to hear what you think about this, so start up a conversation in the comments below.