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Editorial: Mullins concert had to go in wake of drug deaths

UMass students line up outside the Mullins Center for a Dada Life concert in December 2012. Concerns about a club-drug, molly, led UMass to nix a techno concert at the center planned for this weekend.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

UMass students line up outside the Mullins Center for a Dada Life concert in December 2012. Concerns about a club-drug, molly, led UMass to nix a techno concert at the center planned for this weekend. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

The University of Massachusetts has canceled a Mullins Center concert scheduled for this weekend, and though it will cause a loss of money and disappoint those who intended to go, we think it was the right decision.

Return to Fantazia, which presents the kind of techno dance music that seems to attract drug use, was uninvited to the Mullins in the wake of deaths and overdoses linked to the drug called Molly at a Boston club and a New York music festival. Similar concerts have been canceled in Agawam, Boston and New Hampshire.

Local officials say they have seen no evidence here of the drug, which is an illegal stimulant, a purer form of Ecstasy known chemically as MDMA. But techno dance concerts have kept emergency crews scrambling in the past with numerous calls to tend to concertgoers sickened after consuming drugs, or mixing them with alcohol. In addition to pulling the show, UMass sent email warnings to students about the dangers of Ecstasy and Molly, an important action.

Though Amherst Fire Department crews were ready for Saturday’s concert, it makes sense to put events like this on hold until officials can determine how much of a threat lethal forms of Molly are. No decision has been made on the fate of the next Mullins dance music show, Above & Beyond, set for Oct. 4, or Pretty Lights, scheduled for Oct. 30. While the Mullins Center is managed independently, the school can veto events it schedules, though that rarely happens. Some 2,800 people were expected to attend the Return to Fantazia concert; 1,371 tickets had been sold by last week. Canceling the show will cost the university $18,500, said UMass spokesman Daniel Fitzgibbons. It will not be rescheduled.

During a similar Mullins concert last fall, 19 people were taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital by ambulance after they mixed drugs and alcohol, Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said. The fire department also operates a triage area at the venue where less serious emergencies are handled to spare use of the ambulances.

The Amherst Select Board made a point of thanking the university this week for stopping the show. Two years ago, member Diana Stein experienced the impact of ambulances being monopolized by those who over-indulged during The Dayglow Escape Reality Tour concert at the Mullins. She was surprised when an out-of-town ambulance responded to an emergency at her home. At the Select Board meeting this week, she said protecting even one person by canceling Return to Fantazia makes it a wise decision. We agree.

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