WARNING: If You Take Drugs at Burning Man - Richard P. Davies Law
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WARNING: If You Take Drugs at Burning Man

WARNING: If You Take Drugs at Burning Man

Reno Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses Drugs at Burning Man and How Recent Legalization of Marijuana Laws Will Affect Burning Man.

Our office has been receiving inquiries from excited “burners” this coming week who have been curious as to whether it’s now legal to smoke pot out on the Playa.  While the state of Nevada has recently legalized the substance, making it so any person over the age of 21 can possess up to an ounce of recreational marijuana and an eighth of an ounce of marijuana concentrate, Federal Law still considers the use of this drug illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 drug.

So, what does this mean for the folks at Burning Man this year?  The answer to this question is convoluted, and, as a Burning Man Spokesperson pointed out in a recent RGJ Article, “You’re not exempt from the law at Burning Man.”

Who Will Be Enforcing Marijuana Laws at Burning Man?

According to Megan Miller with Burning Man, both the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff’s office will be patrolling the area in 2017.  So, who should you watch out for?  The BLM has expressly stated that they do plan to enforce federal prohibition.  Because this event takes place on public lands, they gotta do what they gotta do.

It’s a different story for the officers of the Pershing County Sheriff’s office, however.  If you are at the event and are following the laws enacted by the State of Nevada regarding the use of marijuana, and you run into one of these guys, you’ll be okay. They have no enforcement unless you are possessing an amount in excess of the previously outlined amounts, or smoking marijuana in public. Yes, it is still illegal to smoke weed in public. People found to be in possession of marijuana face fines up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, according to BLM officials.  Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller says, “You’re not exempt from the law at Burning Man, and that is doubly true this year. I know the laws are evolving around this, and we’re in this middle point of figuring it all out, but marijuana is still illegal at Burning Man,”

Other Drugs at Burning Man

Aside from Marijuana, people get arrested for just about every drug there is out there. These charges typically come down to Possession of Controlled Substance Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V.  We break down in a previous blog post the penalties for different drug charges at Burning Man into more detail. However, often times the arresting officers can make a case that you were attempting to sell drugs, and therefore you may be arrested for Trafficking a Controlled Substance at Burning Man. This will carry more severe penalties. Drug Trafficking is possession of 4 grams or more, regardless of intent. Trading drugs for another tangible item may be construed by law enforcement as a “sale of a controlled substance.”

What Could Happen if You Run Into BLM?

According to the BLM, if you are arrested on charges of possession and/or use of marijuana while you’re partying in the Black Rock Desert, you could face fines up to $1,000 or jail time for up to twelve months.  With how much you’ve already spent on goggles, getups and paraphernalia, that $1,000 could hurt.

It’s also important to note that, because law enforcement agencies plan to crack down on impaired driving to and from the event, they will be watching and waiting for burners driving under the influence of ANY substance.  This, coupled with the fact that you could be subject to a search of your vehicle, means that the risks associated with driving under the influence during this time are substantial.

According to the Burning Man Survival Guide…

There’s a big effort this year to make burners aware of the current drug policies for the event.  Officially, representatives stand by their drug-free policy.  However, they do outline in their survival guide the new marijuana laws in addition to open container laws, illegal paraphernalia, etc.

Last year, it was reported that 46 arrests were made on the playa, 37 of which were for drug related charges.  The most commonly found drug at the event in 2016 was – you guessed it – marijuana. Other common Burning Man drugs are cocaine, ecstasy or molly, and acid, according to Jerry Allen, Pershing County Sheriff.  It’s likely that, because of the newly enacted Nevada Laws, the number of people possessing marijuana will skyrocket.  

Federal Law enforcement agencies are well aware of this fact, and it’s not entirely known what the impact and subsequent results will be.  Police and BLM officers will be on the lookout for drugs at Burning Man this year more than ever. As a burner, your best bet is to take several precautions to prevent yourself from getting in any unnecessary trouble with BLM and the like.

Tips for Staying Under the Radar

  • Follow the Rules of The Road

The last thing you want is to be pulled over for a relatively minor infraction such as speeding, outdated vehicle registration, or a broken headlight or taillight.  If you are pulled over for any of those violations and the officer deems there is probable cause to search your vehicle, you could be in serious trouble if you are in possession of illegal substances.

Check your headlights and taillights in advance of your trip, follow the speed limit and keep your vehicle paperwork current if you want to draw minimal attention to yourself.

  • Follow the Laws Regarding Alcohol

An easy way to draw attention to your camp is to overtly violate laws regarding alcohol.  Make no mistake, undercover officers will be in attendance and blending in with the crowd.  If one of them is made aware that you’re serving alcohol to minors, operating a vehicle under the influence or with an open container, you will be subject to citations, fines or worse.

Final Thoughts on Burning Man Drugs

Ultimately, you burners are visiting The Black Rock Desert to have a unique and exuberant experience; one that’s as free from the controls of the law as possible.  Criminal Defense Attorneys can urge you to behave yourselves, but they won’t be there to warn you against making bad decisions.

If you find yourself busted for breaking any laws, including the Federal Laws prohibiting the use of marijuana, contact Richard P. Davies, a seasoned drug attorney in Reno, to evaluate your case.