RAVE PARTY DRUG GOES UNDERGROUND IN CAPITAL REGION
Ecstasy Pills Are Still Popular at Small Social Gatherings, Local
From midnight to morning, Bryan Oley worked rave parties, educating
dancers on the dangers of Ecstasy. He passed out pamphlets and bottles of
water and tested pills for evidence of unwanted chemicals.
Rave parties have gone the way of the disco in the Sacramento region, drug
agents and Oley say, but they also concur that Ecstasy, which came into
public view under flashing rave-party lights, remains popular.
Oley, co-founder of Sac Haven, the local chapter of the national DanceSafe
organization, said he has seen the drug move underground to small social
gatherings. It's also prevalent in dance clubs and strip clubs, said Gordon
Taylor, special agent in charge of the Sacramento Drug Enforcement
"People take it and talk to each other; it's a very social drug," Oley
said. "It's the standard 'I'm on something and I'm going to have a deep
conversation with you' type thing."
Agents used to wave glow sticks to a techno beat to gather intelligence at
raves, Taylor said. Today, they no longer monitor the dance floor, but they
still tango with dealers. Most recently in Roseville, they arrested a man
who boasted of selling Ecstasy out of the trunk of his BMW at strip clubs.
"Over last year, and most recently, it seems like Ecstasy is abundantly
available," Taylor said. "It gives us a reason for concern."
John Pok Kim, 26, was the man who sold agents 1,004 Ecstasy pills and gave
them "free samples" of cocaine, court documents state. Four other people
from Sacramento and Rancho Cordova in their 20s were also arrested on
charges related to trafficking 7,400 Ecstasy pills.
Taylor said that bust marked the end of a lull since a 2001 sting. Then,
agents seized a half-million Ecstasy pills in an investigation that traced
suppliers in Belgium to buyers in a bathroom in Arden Fair mall.
The prevalence of Ecstasy, which pumps the pleasure-inducing chemical
serotonin into the brain, may differ in Sacramento compared to the rest of
the nation, Taylor said.
DEA officials in Washington, D.C., released an analysis earlier this month
saying a May 2004 Ecstasy bust wiped out 15 percent of the U.S. supply. The
drug's price went up in many cities.
But the price hikes and drug-purity dips seen in Miami, New Orleans,
Houston and Los Angeles do not appear to have reached the Sacramento
market, Taylor said. Here, a "boat" - or 1,000 Ecstasy pills - sells for
half of what it did about four years ago.
"When you have a large supply of a drug, then perhaps not as many people
using it, the sellers are going to lower price to stay in business," Taylor
said. "That could be happening."
Oley said the media glare on deadly overdoses and a law enforcement
crackdown on the drug contributed to the death of mass rave parties. He
said the parties, once large events in rented spaces, still take place in
homes and getaway cottages.
"The best analogy is a wave," he said of the rave circuit. "It hit its peak
and came back down. The water is still there."
Oley said the national Dance Safe organization was founded on the premise
of "harm reduction," assuming people could not be stopped from taking the
drug. The organization wanted to help users avoid heat exhaustion and bad
pills. Researchers also warn that the drug can cause depression, memory
loss and brain damage.
DanceSafe sponsored pill testing and told users whether pills with a
particular logo - like Batman or Playboy or Popeye - included unwanted
Now, lacking raves to monitor or funds to test pills, Oley said his main
function is to moderate a Web site that hosts discussions about drugs.
Oley said he is worried that the drug's retreat to private spaces may leave
people who have bad reactions afraid to call paramedics for fear of
Since raves ended in the Sacramento area, Taylor said he has heard of fewer
Ecstasy-related deaths. One did happen in a Bay Area home last April, he
said. Irma Perez, an eighth-grader from Belmont, took the drug one night
during a sleepover with friends, according to Javier Peqa, the special
agent in charge of the San Francisco DEA office.
Perez, 14, got a headache and began to vomit. Instead of calling for
medical help, Perez's friends called the 17-year-old drug dealer. He
recommended that she smoke marijuana to calm down.
Perez moaned and said, "I think I am going to die." Within days, she did.
Five people who contributed to Perez's death face criminal prosecution.