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Rave safety law advances in Assembly committee

April 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Southern California mom brought her story to Sacramento, and it didn't take long for lawmakers to take her side.

"I'm speaking not as a mother of a victim, but as a voice of a parent who wants something done now," said Grace Rodriguez, mother of a 15-year-old girl who died from a drug overdose. The tragic death of her daughter is still difficult for her to talk about, but Rodriguez has to in order to convince lawmakers to make changes.

Last June, her daughter Sasha died of an overdose while at a rave at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a property partly owned by the state of California. Her family claims not enough medical personnel were there.

"How can we allow any of these events to happen? How can we allow for one person to die?" said Rodriguez.

The month before Sasha's death, two other people died after also overdosing on drugs at a rave. That rave was held at the Bay Area's Cow Palace, another state-owned venue.

The California State Assembly Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved tougher safety measures in place for any event at publicly owned sites, not just raves, where more than 10,000 people are expected.

They include prior approval of an action plan that addresses potential need for law enforcement, medical care and risk of drug use. The proposal is a compromise from an all-out ban on raves.

"Opponents criticized me for banning fun without seeing it firsthand. So last month, I went to Beyond Wonderland [a rave] in San Bernardino to see for myself what happens," said state Assm. Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco).

Ma found raves can be done safely if the right precautions are in place.

Still, opponents say the new restrictions might discourage rave promoters from holding events that a lot of young people are demanding.

"These issues of deaths are coming from bad drugs, not from the events. So if you want to deal with the issues, you have to deal with the drugs," said Liam Shy, who opposes raves the measures.

The intention of Assemblywoman Ma's bill is to lessen the state's liability if deaths occur during an event. The state is among those being sued for $5 million over Sasha Rodriguez's death.