ELGIN SEEKS TO BAN ITEMS IN TEEN CLUBS
Pacifiers, glow sticks and similar accessories favored by electronic music
fans are drug paraphernalia, said Elgin officials, who are taking the first
step toward an unusual law that would ban such items from nightclubs
catering to the under-21 crowd.
On Wednesday, the Elgin City Council backed an ordinance for underage
events at nightclubs such as The Mission, a downtown club that most nights
draws an adult crowd. The regulations, which would be required of any
establishment intending to hold an event for people younger than 21, would
ban several club toys.
Besides pacifiers and glow sticks, city officials also want to ban
lollipops, dust masks and vapor rub. Law-enforcement and drug experts say
possession of the items they want to ban is often a sign of Ecstasy use.
The City Council, which supported the plan 5-1, must vote on the ordinance
"Obviously, not everyone that has these items is on Ecstasy, but it would
be helpful to keep these things out of the club," said Rick Kozal, Elgin's
assistant city attorney.
Ecstasy users often chew on pacifiers or lollipops to prevent grinding
their teeth, a common side effect of the drug, which is synthetic and
classified as a hallucinogen and a stimulant. Glow sticks and dust masks
rubbed with mentholated products such as vapor rubs are said to heighten
the Ecstasy high.
On a trial basis, city officials gave owners of the club permission last
year to hold alcohol-free parties for people between 17 and 21. The
practice ended in April. Patrons had to become members of the club to
attend the underage nights.
During the trial period, police made eight arrests for sale of Ecstasy or
lookalike drugs at the club, authorities said.
Kozal said city officials want to give The Mission's owner a chance to
revive the young-adult night, but they say it's necessary to change things
to ensure the safety of patrons.
Banning items that might be deemed drug paraphernalia by club proprietors
is common, but a government ban is unheard of, say club owners, city
officials and civil liberties advocates.
Mario Malek, owner of the teenage dance club Zero Gravity in Naperville,
said that when Ecstasy started becoming popular in the suburbs in 1999, he
banned pacifiers and dust masks and stopped selling glow sticks.
"We were really hard-core," Malek said. "If a kid brings in a glow stick
now, we're not going to throw him out, but it does make you take a second
Civil liberties advocates say a ban such as the one Elgin plans could
violate 1st amendment rights.
Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's drug policy
litigation project and a chief opponent of a ban on club toys in New
Orleans, said twirling neon glow sticks is one way some clubgoers express
Many of the other items, such as pacifiers, are part of the aesthetic of
devotees to the electronic music scene and are not illegal, he said.
In the New Orleans case, managers of a club were charged with organizing a
rave in 2001 that authorities claimed was a venue for the distribution and
use of drugs. In a plea agreement, the managers agreed to confiscate glow
sticks and pacifiers and other items at future events.
Boyd was successful in fighting the ban on grounds that it violated
patrons' 1st Amendment rights. That ruling was overturned last year when
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a judge cannot stop
prosecutors from enforcing a condition of a plea agreement. The 1st
Amendment issue wasn't dealt with, Boyd said.
Boyd said the Elgin ordinance could also violate 1st Amendment rights of
patrons. Unlike the New Orleans case, Elgin's ban would be imposed by a
government and apply to all the city's clubs holding young-adult nights,
Boyd said. The Mission is the only club in Elgin that holds such events.
"It's one thing if the venue's operators decide to ban certain legal items
on their own," Boyd said. "It's another thing when the government is
calling for such a ban."
John Walters, an Elgin council member who supports the ordinance, said he
doesn't think the ban will create any legal problems.
"If you want to come to the club, you have to be a member," Walters said.
"If you want to be a member, you have to agree not to bring these items to
the club. If you don't want to do it, no one is going to stop you from
sitting at home and waving a glow stick in front of your face."
Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance,
questioned how effective such a ban would be.
"Banning pacifiers and glow sticks at a rave is like banning tie-dye
T-shirts at a rock concert to stop people from smoking marijuana," Piper said.
The proposal is scheduled to come before the council Jan. 14.