Note: Thanks to my friend and Lamplighter colleague Hey You of Houston for the idea of this post. Suggestions for topics are always welcome and sincerely appreciated.
Some of you in the 50 and over age group may be considering attending Burning Man as a return to your halcyon days as a hippie or as a way to rekindle your rebellious youth. If so, then sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll may be on your mind as you envision your Burning Man experience. Here are a few thoughts about drugs on the playa.
There’s a known availability of recreational drugs at the Burn. It’s just part of the ambience, and considered by many to be a good thing. But there are some risks to keep in mind. First, illegal drugs are illegal on the playa. This is not a Burning Man rule, it’s federal and Nevada law. The state has no medical marijuana protection, so a license is of no use, and cops from federal, state and county jurisdictions can and will arrest people for drug possession. Be cautious. Your vehicle is subject to inspection as you enter the Festival grounds, and you don’t want to start your Burn with a free ride to Reno for booking.
Most drug arrests are reversed or avoided with the help of volunteer attorneys who gift us with free services on and off the playa. Also, there is an especially trained group of Black Rock Rangers (called LEAL — Law Enforcement Agency Liaison) whose job is to intercede with law enforcement on the playa on behalf of us Burners. Also, many of the officers who patrol the playa are volunteers who consider themselves part of the Burner community and who take a fairly lenient view of innocuous drug use.
But there’s another risk that is especially important for us older Burners who may not have imbibed in years. Marijuana in particular is a much stronger substance than was generally available back in my youth. You can get knocked on your can with the same dose that once provided a mild high. If you haven’t been doing marijuana regularly but plan to try it on the playa, take into account the higher quality of today’s pot and go a little easy at first. Of course, there are other drugs on the playa that can be even higher risk than marijuana. Be aware of what you’re doing, and don’t allow yourself to get caught on the open playa in a state of drugged confusion. Someone will always help you find your way to a medical tent, but in the meantime you could suffer from exposure or genuine panic before you are rescued.
Also, you’re likely to be “gifted” drugs by people on the playa. If you don’t know the individual, you could be accepting something other than what they claim it to be. Take care.
I’ve often heard stories about people being “dosed” with LSD or other drugs when they accept gifted drinks or food. I’ve never had it happen to me, or seen it happen, so I tend to think of these stories as more legend than reality. But it’s helpful to keep your judgment radar on even as you’re turning all of your inhibitions off while at Burning Man.
Use the comments section below to share your own experiences, or send me a PM (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have suggested input on this or related issues for a future post.
Tickets go on sale at noon on the 13th. It’s first come, first served, so get in line early and secure your passage to Burning Man 2013.