Anti-drug advocate calls for Moonrise Festival to be canceled

A well-known anti-drug advocate is calling for Baltimore's Moonrise Festival to be canceled after a series of arrests and overdoses at electric dance music concerts, including two deaths linked to a recent event at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

"This is happening all over the country. Kids are ending up in the hospital, dying or getting arrested," said Mike Gimbel, former director of Baltimore County's substance abuse office. "It's not just Merriweather. This is a really scary situation right now. I don't see anybody really responding to it." (A letter from Gimbel on the subject also appears on today's editorial page.)

City officials said they are not considering canceling the concert, which is to take place at Pimlico Race Course this weekend. Headliners include electric dance music acts Kaskade and Bassnectar.

A city government spokesman noted that the event is being organized by a private company and will take place on private property.

"It's short-sighted to say that because of a handful of individuals that are choosing to act dangerously that we should punish the thousands of people who are slated to turn out for this event," Kevin Harris said. "It's also short-sighted to say it's feasible to combat drugs by shutting down one event. I don't think it's fair to paint these concerts with a broad brush because of a few people who acted irresponsibly."

Evan Weinstein, the event's promoter, said organizers will have 32 private paramedics on hand.

"We would like to assure everyone that safety has been our number one priority from the very beginning of our event planning," he said. 

Two people died and 19 others were hospitalized during last week's Mad Decent Block Party at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Investigators said they suspect that Ecstasy, or "Molly," was the most commonly used drug at the concert.

Also last weekend, an attendee at the Hard Summer EDM festival in Los Angeles died of an apparent drug overdose, according to published reports.

Baltimore's Fire Department said it is prepared for the weekend festival, and more than four dozen city and private EMTs will be at Pimlico.

"As with every major event that takes place in Baltimore City, we have developed a thorough safety plan that includes the robust deployment of public safety assets and emergency medical technicians, as well as the placement of cooling and hydration stations to minimize the occurrence of medical emergencies related to hyperthermia," spokesman Ian Brennan said.

"City agencies, including fire, police and transportation, along with our private partners, are committed to ensuring the festival is safe for all attendees," Brennan said.

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