MAPS News September 2008

“Boom is the best example of coordinated psychedelic emergency services that I have ever seen at any festival.” MAPS President Rick Doblin sang praises for the festival and its chief organizer Diogo Ruivo. Boom is a weeklong festival that began as a psy-trance event in 1997 with 3500 attendees. Located on a lakeside in Portugal, this year more than 25,000 people descended upon the land to enjoy music, art, culture, and knowledge; 10,000 more people were turned away because the land couldn’t host any more participants.

Since Portugal has decriminalized the personal possession of drugs, the Boom organizers are able to implement harm reduction methods without fear. This is not the case for event organizers in the United States. Vice presidential candidate Democrat Joe Biden, sponsored the “RAVE Act” and maneuvered it into law. This law makes organizers of events subject to criminal prosecution if they knowingly permit drug use to take place at their events. The Rave Act has helped criminalize harm reduction methods at festivals and other music events.

“Sadly, as opposed to Portugal’s harm reduction approach, in the US we have a harm maximization approach,” Rick said.

The Boom organizers provided a psychedelic emergency facility that was large and visible to everyone at the festival. Next to the facility a team from Spain called ‘Energy Control” had an onsite drug testing facility using thin-layer chromotography. The team was able to test most of the drugs that were sold at the event, and they created a slideshow that identified what drugs were being sold and what the drugs really contained. The slides were projected on the side of the tent, visible to passers by. Sylvia Thyssen and Jon Hanna of Erowid provided information about various drugs.

Two years ago MAPS helped the Boom Festival organizers provide psychedelic emergency service teams at Boom, but the teams felt burnt-out and frustrated because of insufficient facilities and resources. In March, 2008, Diogo Ruivo came to the World Psychedelic Forum in Basel to meet with Rick Doblin, MAPS Director of Operations Valerie Mojeiko, and Harm Reduction Coordinators Sandra Karpetas and Svea Nielsen to discuss the lessons learned from the 2006 event.

“Diogo and his team did a tremendous job of putting lessons learned into practice. They deserve tremendous credit for creating what now is a world model for how to handle psychedelic emergency services at festivals like this. They are leaders to be recognized in preparing for a post-prohibition world,” said Rick.

The Boom festival happens every two years. The next one will take place in 2010.