Moogfest is here!

This weekend, October 26-27, 2012, is Moogfest in Asheville.  It’s a great festival in downtown, with all sorts of electronic-based music being performed on stages throughout the city.  Thousands of cool, groovy people will converge on the city, looking to enjoy the music, the people and the nightlife Asheville has to offer.

Another group of people will also descend on the town.  This group is not so cool or groovy.  They are officers with the Alcohol Law Enforcement Section of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, commonly referred to as “ALE.”  This group of special agents will be out in force, most of them undercover, disguised as if they are ordinary party-goers.  Though their section is called “Alcohol” law enforcement, they’re really just Morality Police.  They’re not even pretending to “serve and protect.”  They just love to bust cannabis consumers, and if you’re the one holding for your friends, they will try to make a case that you’re a dealer.

These officers will be on the lookout for anybody getting high or about to get high.  They will seek out those who try to hide their activities, like a group of friends looking around furtively and sneaking away from the crowds.  You may think you’re being discreet, and you probably are.  You won’t be bothering anyone, and you will be far away from where anyone can see or smell what you’re up to.  But that’s when they’ll strike.

They’ll be in the parking decks and lots, alleyways, and other secluded areas.  If you’re resting in a car in a parking garage, they’ll roust you, claiming to smell burning pot.  They’ll impound your car (or any car they think might be yours) and hold it till they can get a search warrant to open it up.

Because of the way they seek out otherwise law abiding peaceful citizens, I like to say that ALE, unlike other law enforcement, doesn’t keep the peace.  They disturb the peace.  And they will ruin as many people’s weekend as they possibly can.

What can you do to protect yourself?  I wish I knew for sure. Here are a few tips, though:

First, don’t join or participate in a group smoke session anywhere outdoors downtown.  Yes, I know smoking with your friends is good fun social interaction.  But groups of 3-5 folks headed for the outskirts of the crowd catch ALE’s attention.  If you must consume cannabis while you’re at Moogfest, sneak away by yourself and do it solo.

Second, remember that paraphernalia charges are more serious than simple possession of marijuana, so be extra-special careful if you use a pipe.  If you sense trouble is about to strike, joints are much easier to get rid of, and you don’t want to lose that super cool piece of glass your blower friend gave you for your birthday.

Third, never, ever, ever consent to a search of your car or any car you happen to be sitting in, no matter what the officer promises you or threatens you with.  They are not your friends, and they will lie through their teeth to boost their bust numbers.

Fourth, exercise your right to remain silent early and often.  Don’t think for a minute that you can talk your way out of trouble with these officers.  If they have probable cause to search, arrest or cite you, let them do it, but don’t give them probable cause by running your mouth.  STFU – Stop Talking in Front of Uniforms/Undercovers.

Fifth, never carry more than 1/2 ounce of cannabis, no matter how good a deal you got on that QP.  It’s possible, but highly unlikely, you’ll get arrested for possession of less than 1/2 ounce.  You’ll get a citation, instead.  If you get arrested, you’ll have to make bail to get out, and if you’re from out of town, you may have a hard time finding a bail bondsman to get you out, and even if you do, they might just rip you off.

Regardless of whether you follow these tips or not, you might still find yourself in trouble this weekend.  If that happens, try not to worry, think positive thoughts, and call me.

I can help.