Opinion: Trump Will Not Be Good for the Harm Reduction Movement

Things are looking pretty bleak.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

As many of you know, Dance Music Northwest is a staunch supporter of common sense harm reduction. Many of the measures we support are now under extreme threat with the coming of our new president and his appointees. It’s hard not to see that a lot of the progress that has been made in the field of harm reduction will almost certainly be rolled back by draconian policy views. What, in particular, am I concerned most about? Mostly I am concerned about our friends and their progress at Amend The Rave Act.

If you have been paying attention to the harm reduction movement, then you are familiar with the efforts of Dede Goldsmith and her mission to Amend the RAVE Act (ATRA). The RAVE Act was a law passed in the latter part of the nineties, in response to a massive amount of drug-related deaths associated primarily with ecstasy.

Unfortunately, that law made it difficult to provide common sense harm reduction services similar to what Shambhala has been pioneering for the past two decades or so. An event company can’t even provide real non-biased drug information to people, otherwise they could be prosecuted under our current crack-house laws.

ATRA has made a lot of head way in getting this law amended. As of right now, there is a request to have our current Attorney General Lorretta Lynch provide clarification on the law. That clarification may make it easier for events to provide even basic information on drugs at shows, and provide some common sense harm reduction services.

However that is in danger now. Trump has already begun announcing his list of appointees, and has called for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be his Attorney General. Sessions is an incredibly dangerous choice for anyone in favor of justice reform, immigration, drug policy, and civil rights as a whole. He is a staunch conservative, and favors heavy mandatory minimums in support of the heavy hand of the law. It is easy to assume that he would not support amending the RAVE Act, and more over, he would likely be the first Attorney General to make sure the RAVE Act is enforced. Since the law passed, not a single event company has been prosecuted under the law.

There is hope however. Sessions must be approved by the Senate. An important thing to know about Sessions is that he was once nominated for a low level judgeship under Ronald Reagan. According to a New York Times report, he was not confirmed due to “devastating testimony by former colleagues, that he was a racist.” Hopefully Senators will follow their predecessors and reject his nomination again.

But that still doesn’t do much for moving forward with ATRA. Regardless of who they appoint, Trump ran his campaign under the “Law and Order” banner. Couple that with a Republican held House and Senate, the outlook doesn’t look good. The best we can hope for is that most of the progress we’ve made in the world of harm reduction goes largely unnoticed and therefore untouched. Only time will tell what the future holds, but I will still be active in engaging with our local politicians to promote necessary harm reduction measures, and so will Dance Music Northwest. We would ask that you do the same.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

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