Heading to Burning Man? Here’s what you need to know about Black Rock City’s and Nevada’s marijuana laws.
If you are heading to Burning Man this year, you may be thinking about bringing cannabis to the playa, since Nevada has legalized marijuana. Not so fast! Before you head out, there are some important things you need to know:
• Burning man is held on FEDERAL land, and the Bureau of Land Management will enforce federal law, which unfortunately considers all marijuana possession a criminal offense — even if you have a medial card! BLM may also ticket you for violations of various rules in the “closure order,” though these, thankfully, are civil rather than criminal.
• “Gifting” marijuana to others is drug trafficking under federal law, even though no money is being exchanged. And if you are caught selling marijuana, or are found in possession of more than one ounce, you will likely be prosecuted under Nevada law by the local Pershing County Sheriffs, who also patrol Burning Man.
• Especially important: GATE ROAD is also federal property, and a lot of the law enforcement activity happens while people are driving into the event. In addition, some of the roads into the event, near Wadsworth and Nixon, pass through tribal reservations, where federal law enforcement can and do make arrests. Keep in mind that you have fewer rights while driving than you do in your home (or in this case, your tent or RV), and can be stopped for a broken taillight or any other minor infraction by law enforcement, who may ask you for consent to search your vehicle (you have the right to refuse). Any marijuana consumption while on the Gate Road could result in a ticket or charges for DUI or marijuana possession.
• Before or after Burning Man, when you are not on federal land: Adults ages 21 and older may legally purchase marijuana from retail establishments in Nevada! MPP supported the initiative that made Nevada the fifth of eight states to end prohibition.
• Public consumption could result in a misdemeanor charge, with a fine of up to $600. And because the casinos’ regulators directed them to follow federal law, you cannot consume in hotel-casinos. MPP and our allies hope to establish safe, legal consumption spaces for tourists, but that won’t happen before Burning Man 2018. But you can consume in private homes, which may include private homes for rent.
• You should also know that Nevada has very strict laws on driving under the influence of marijuana. There is a “per se” threshold of two ng/mL of THC in your blood, meaning that you can be convicted based on a positive test result whether you were impaired or not. If you are a regular marijuana consumer, please note that you can have this amount in your system even if you haven’t consumed in a couple of days.
• If you do have an encounter with law enforcement, it’s always a good idea to know your rights. In addition, Burning Man would like to know about your experience, and if you get into trouble, you can reach out to the volunteer group Lawyers for Burners for help after you return home.
This legal information is provided as a courtesy and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, which is an interpretation of the applicable law to your specific circumstances, we encourage you to consult an attorney. MPP is offering this information as a public service and is in no way affiliated with the Burning Man Project.
MPP is proud to announce the launch of the Coalition for a Safer Illinois, a group of organizations and community leaders committed to replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations. We know prohibition has failed in Illinois, and we think it’s time for a better approach.
If you are part of an organization that might be interested in endorsing marijuana regulation, or if you are a member of the clergy, a doctor, a current or former law enforcement officer, an economist, or other stakeholder, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also let us know if you are a casualty of marijuana prohibition — including if you’ve been arrested or stuck with a criminal record, or if you’ve been in a bad situation due to the underground marijuana trade.
And no matter what, if you are an Illinois resident, please help put pressure on your own lawmakers to support ending marijuana prohibition. Our email alerts to supporters often include a way to easily contact lawmakers and get the message across. Sign up for coalition alerts here.
In a survey released this week, Pew Research Center showed that 69% of police officers polled support allowing marijuana for medical or adult use, despite frequent opposition to sensible reforms from law enforcement organizations.
Washington Post reports:
The nationally representative survey of law enforcement, one of the largest of its kind, found that 32 percent of police officers said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 37 percent said it should be legal for medical use only. An additional 30 percent said that marijuana should not be legal at all.
Police are more conservative than the general public on the issue. Among all Americans, Pew found that 49 percent supported recreational marijuana, 35 percent supported medical marijuana only, and 15 percent said the drug should not be legal.
Pew also found a generational divide among cops on the marijuana issue, although not as large as the one that exists among the general public. Officers under age 35 were more likely to support recreational marijuana (37 percent) than those between the ages of 50 and 60 (27 percent). Among the general public, those numbers stand at 67 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
Law enforcement groups have often been among the staunchest opponents of marijuana legalization measures. In 2016, such groups made small but significant contributions to oppose legalization measures in California and Arizona, citing concerns over issues such as underage use and intoxicated driving.
This trend is good news for marijuana policy reformers, as support for legalization increases among the people tasked with enforcing prohibition, and as younger cops move into leadership positions.
It should be noted that a Pew survey released in October showed that 57% of the general public supports making marijuana legal for adults, but that study had different sample sizes and methodology than the study just released.
Earlier today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that local and state law enforcement would no longer be able to use federal asset forfeiture laws to seize and keep property without evidence of a crime.
According to the Washington Post:
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.
The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.
While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.
A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”
The old policy allowed law enforcement to take and keep people's cash and property on the pretense of things like the scent of marijuana, even if none is found in their possession. Since the proceeds go directly to local police budgets, some argue that this was one of the primary reasons for law enforcement's continued opposition to marijuana policy reform.
In an interview last week, Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval called marijuana prohibition a failure and advocated regulating and taxing the substance in order to pay for treatment programs that focus on more dangerous drugs.
The comments came during an interview with the State Journal Wednesday about data showing African Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate of whites in the city.
Koval called efforts to enforce laws against marijuana an “abject failure” and said the same about the broader war on drugs. “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval said.
Referring to the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the drug for recreational use and sale at state-regulated stores, he said it was time for Wisconsin to consider doing the same.
Under current Wisconsin law, possession of any amount of marijuana can earn you six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A subsequent offense is a felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and three and a half years in prison.
Chief Koval is just one example of a growing movement of law enforcement professionals who are breaking rank with many of their colleagues and calling for an end to the war on marijuana users.
A group of local medical marijuana patients and advocates gathered in front of the Minnesota governor’s mansion Thursday to deliver a very large and provocative “get better soon” card to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is recovering from hip surgery. The governor is currently holding up a widely supported bill that would allow seriously ill Minnesotans to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it because it is opposed by some law enforcement officials.
Following a brief news conference hosted by Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, patients, their family members, and supporters signed the huge greeting card which was then delivered to the governor.
Gov. Dayton has said he will only support the medical marijuana bill, HF 1818, if it has the approval of law enforcement officials, who he instructed to work with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carly Melin, to reach a compromise. Rep. Melin met with leaders of law enforcement organizations this week, but they steadfastly refused to support workable medical marijuana legislation, resulting in Rep. Melin temporarily removing the bill from the House Government Operations agenda.
The governor took notice. After meeting with advocates, he has promised to try to work out a compromise.
At a Maryland State Senate hearing to discuss decriminalizing marijuana Tuesday, a high-ranking law enforcement official betrayed his total ignorance about marijuana when he claimed that decriminalization would cause a slew of overdoses throughout the state.
From the Capital Gazette:
"The first day of legalization, that's when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana," [Annapolis Police Chief Michael] Pristoop said in testimony at Tuesday's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing. "I remember the first day it was decriminalized there were 37 deaths."
That information is straight from the Daily Currant, a well-known satirical news site, which claimed that Colorado hospitals were overwhelmed with emergency cases caused by marijuana use.
Apparently Chief Pristoop didn't know that marijuana was already being used widely in Colorado, just like in every other state, and that it is impossible to die from a marijuana overdose.
Maybe Pristoop was truly ignorant of these facts, in which case he probably shouldn't be testifying in support of continuing Maryland's failed marijuana prohibition. Or maybe, like law enforcement bosses in Minnesota and around the country, he's just worried about his budget.
Despite the fact that black and white Americans use marijuana in comparable numbers, a new analysis of federal data performed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that blacks were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010. The report is the most comprehensive national examination of marijuana arrests by race and by county.
According to the ACLU:
"The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities."
The statistics in Washington, D.C. and Maryland were particularly staggering. The former had the country’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession arrests – more than three times the national average – and the latter had the fourth highest rate. Blacks accounted for 91% of possession arrests in D.C. and were more than eight times more likely to be arrested than whites. In Maryland, blacks accounted for 58% of possession arrests and were more than three times more likely to be arrested than whites. In Baltimore City, they were more than five-and-half times likely to be arrested than whites.
The disproportionality of marijuana enforcement is just one more pebble on the mountain of evidence that exposes our nation’s marijuana policy for what it is: broken.
Yesterday, Montana medical marijuana activist Tom Daubert was sentenced to five years of probation by a federal judge for his involvement in a medical marijuana access point that was raided by federal agents early last year. That operation was one of 26 locations that were raided simultaneously throughout Montana by federal agents in an effort to destroy the state’s burgeoning and predominantly lawful medical marijuana industry.
Daubert has been actively fighting for medical marijuana patients’ rights since 2004. He began his work on the issue as the consultant for MPP's campaign committee during the successful initiative campaign. Since then, he has worked tirelessly in the state capitol and with local law enforcement to ensure the future of medical marijuana and maintain good relations with lawmakers and police. He even invited them to tour the facility, which is documented in the film “Code of the West.”
Tom Daubert was fortunate not to receive any prison time, even though any punishment is far too heavy a sentence for merely trying to make sure that seriously ill people have safe access to their medicine. His former partner Richard Flor was treated far more harshly. On August 30, while serving a five-year sentence in federal prison, Flor died after suffering two heart attacks and other medical problems. His transfer to a facility that may have been able to treat his numerous health conditions had been delayed for months.
Meanwhile, several other providers and former staffers are still in prison — including Richard’s wife and son. Others are still facing trial or sentencing.
We at MPP wish Tom the best and thank him for everything he has done.
A dedicated marijuana policy reform advocate who was instrumental to enacting Montana’s medical marijuana law has become the latest victim of Pres. Obama’s heartless war on medical marijuana. Tom Daubert, a friend and colleague, will plead guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premises — a medical marijuana dispensary called Montana Cannabis.
Tom has seen what can happen to people who don’t have access to the only medicine that gives them relief. In 2004, he worked hand-in-hand with patients to educate voters and editorial boards to make medical marijuana legal under state law. One of the most vocal patients, Robin Prosser, had an excruciating lupus-like illness and was allergic to prescription medications. She went on a 60-day hunger strike for medical marijuana in 2002. Months before Election Day, she attempted suicide because she didn't have access to the one medicine that worked for her.
After the initiative passed, Robin found a caregiver who shipped her the strain of medical marijuana she needed from another part of the state. The DEA intercepted a package, and the caregiver became too afraid to send more marijuana. No other strain worked for Robin, and she couldn’t take the pain any more. In 2007, she took her own life. Tom led a memorial and started the Robin Prosser Memorial Patients’ Legal Defense Fund.
In 2008, it looked like there was finally hope for patients and those who helped them. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said federal resources wouldn’t be used to circumvent state medical marijuana laws. His Department of Justice advised federal agents not to target those in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state medical marijuana laws. Attorney General Eric Holder testified to Congress that threatening dispensaries in Colorado that complied with state law would not be consistent with that advice.
So Tom and hundreds of other people across the country took the president at his word and set about providing patients with safe access to medical marijuana. Tom’s dispensary did all it could to be transparent, responsible, and above board. It invited legislators and local law enforcement in for tours, including while being filmed for the documentary Code of the West. Never in any of these tours did state and local law enforcement leaders express anything but admiration and support for the ways Tom’s approach surpassed both the spirit and letter of the state law and was in full and clear compliance and conformance with Montana community standards. Tom also advocated for the state legislature to regulate and register dispensaries.
Then, without warning, the federal government raided Montana Cannabis and more than 20 other medical marijuana-related sites the same day a state Senate committee voted down a bill to repeal the voter-enacted medical marijuana law Tom helped enact. Some other Montana providers have pled guilty or are fighting charges. Others have been raided, prosecuted, and/or threatened by the federal government in California, Washington, and Michigan for the crime of providing a medicine to sick people … a medicine that unlike Tylenol and Vicodin has never caused a fatal overdose. Meanwhile, in July, the DEA rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana, maintaining the offensive fiction that marijuana has no “currently accepted medical use” in the United States despite numerous studies to the contrary and thousands of physicians recommending medical marijuana to more than half a million patients.
If you would like the federal government stop to burying its head in the sand, driving desperate patients to suicide, and making criminals out of those who dare to help them, please write Pres. Obama and your members of Congress. If his offensive against medical marijuana patients and providers will affect your willingness to donate to, vote for, or volunteer for the president, please let his campaign know.