Tragedy can do a lot of things for a community. It can bring people together, or it can drive them apart. It could raze the landscape to rubble, or build it up to be stronger than ever. So let’s address the elephant in the room: There was a death following Life in Color in Tacoma. 20-year-old attendee Shane Zimmardi passed away at St. Joseph’s hospital, with his toxicology confirming he’d taken some form of amphetamines. That’s the tragedy, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and everyone in the Northwest scene. So now, we build.
Many asked us why we didn’t break the news the day this went wide over social media. One could argue that as the Northwest’s main electronic music outlet, we had a responsibility to inform. But more than that, our responsibility is to elevate, and in order to do just that, we chose to wait. Over the last few days, we’ve been working tirelessly around the clock, gathering information, talking to industry professionals, and doing some research of our own with a single goal in mind: Ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Let’s acknowledge this tragedy together, as a community, and use it as a catalyst toward positive, actionable change.
Harm Reduction is Our Message
We’ve made no secret of our thoughts on harm reduction. Studies stacked upon studies have unequivocally come to the conclusion that the D.A.R.E. message of drug abstinence, and by extension the restrictive anti-drug laws in place that mirror this, aren’t working. One study found that abstinence-only education is as effective at preventing drug use as abstinence sex-ed is at preventing pregnancy (read: Not at all).
So if we’re not going to tell kids to not take drugs at all, what can we do? We can provide them with the tools to make an informed decision as to what they’re choosing to put in their body. In a study conducted by ANKORS at Shambhala Music Festival in 2013, they found that users who tested their drugs and then found out it wasn’t the substance they thought it was chose to dispose of those very same drugs rather than ingest them. Even the most seasoned of ravers are subject to disaster if they’re not aware of what they’re taking. Take an experimental lab chemical sold to you as pure MDMA, and you could find yourself in a hospital bed.
While laws like the RAVE Act restrict organizations like DanceSafe and ANKORS from setting up testing stations at major festivals, the point remains: If laws don’t begin to allow realistic and effective means for keeping people safe, we’re bound to repeat tragedy. What we can do in the meantime though, is seize the message.