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Insomniac's Halloween Escape Festival Will Have On-Site Drug Education

It’s the first time the promoter has allowed this kind of service in over a decade.
Photo by Galen Oakes

Today marks the start of festival powerhouse Insomniac's annual Halloween-themed event, Escape: Psycho Circus, which over two days will host artists from Tiësto and Hardwell to Mano Le Tough and Four Tet inside San Bernardino's NOS Events Center. Less than 24 hours ago, a major addition was added to the program; it's not another main-stage headliner, but a topic that has been top-billed as of late.

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For the first time in over ten years, Insomniac is allowing on-site drug education at its events for the launch of Project #OpenTalk, a new partnership with harm reduction group Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The booth will provide attendees unbiased information about drugs and mental health from trained educators.

The service, the DPA states on their website, was implemented in response to drug-related hospitalizations and deaths at festivals. Many of them have occurred within the last few years, including at festivals held by Insomniac (such as EDC Las Vegas) and fellow Southern Californian promoter HARD Events. Whereas non-US festivals such as Canada's Shambhala provide services including drug-testing kits to its attendees as a means of harm reduction, domestic promoters have shied away from the practice due to the RAVE Act, a 2003 bill that allowed them to be prosecuted for "knowingly opening, maintaining,… making available for use, or profiting from any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance"—the presence of such services was seen as condoning illegal drug use.

"While Insomniac, like other festival production companies, still has a zero tolerance drug policy and conducts entry searches," the DPA says, "they have at least acknowledged that more needs to be done to keep their attendees informed and safe."

Back in March, we spoke to the DPA about how we can stop drug-related deaths at festivals, and last year we explored how one group risks prison to bring drug testing kits to music festivals.