Drug Policy

Like Busting Potheads at a Phish Concert

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Police arrested 250 people on drug charges during three days of Phish concerts at Virginia's Hampton Coliseum over the weekend. They seized $68,000 in cash and claim to have found drugs worth $1,213,882.80—because if you're going to pull a number out of your ass, why not make it ridiculously precise? Tom Angell of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) told The Raw Story that overestimation of drugs' retail value "is definitely something our members have encountered before." Remember the pot that Ohio state police valued at nearly $3,000 an ounce?

The Raw Story also consulted a defense attorney on the question of whether it amounted to entrapment when "an undercover police officer offered to sell concert tickets in return for drugs, then arrested the man who tried to buy them." The answer:

"[In this] scenario presented, entrapment did not likely occur because the law enforcement officer only presented an opportunity for an individual to demonstrate that he/she was in possession of a controlled substance," Pennsylvania attorney Brian W. Carter of Goldfein and Joseph, P.C., told RAW STORY.

"If the individual was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, making an offer to exchange a concert ticket for the controlled substance would not be entrapment because the individual was in possession of the controlled substance prior to the individual being approached by the law enforcement officer," he wrote.

So it's not entrapment. But as the folks at LEAP could tell you, it's not really police work either.

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  1. As if jam bands didn’t already suck enough, here comes the Phish reunion with their army of cops and a court order to stop bootleggers. How fucking dumb are their fans?

  2. Old Joke.

    What does a Phish fan say when he runs out of pot?

    This band sucks.

  3. Keeping it coming, hometown o’mine! Make me proud.

    And it’s impossible to enjoy ANY concert at the Hampton Coliseum without being stoned, because the acoustics suck balls. It was originally intended to be a sports arena, NOT a venue where things like “sound quality” matter.

  4. So if a cop goes up to a suspected terrorist and asks for some C-4 in exchange for concert tickets, and the suspected terrorist gives him some, that’s not police work either?

    Yes, the drug laws are stupid. That doesn’t automatically make enforcement of those laws “not police work”.

  5. I don’t know what the law is in Virginia, but scalping tickets is illegal in most states. The policeman was most likely violating one law, so they could arrest someone for violating different law.

  6. The police should not be able to break laws in order to arrest people. We don’t allow cops to murder people in order to get in with the mob. We don’t allow them to beat up prostitutes to get in with a pimp. Why do we allow them to possess and sell drugs? To scalp tickets?

  7. It’s nice to know that the police in that area have completely sewn up any REAL crime and have time to bust people on charges which are missing a VICTIM — this is revenue-enhancement, not police work.

    We could use a second revolution in this country which would impose freedom FROM government on the police and the Feds.

  8. Epi, they didn’t break the law. The law against solicitation usually includes an exception for law enforcement operations.

    And in this case they didn’t possess any drugs, they were asking others if they did.

    There are plenty of abuses in the war on drugs, but this is one of the most minor.

  9. It’s the principle of the thing, Chris. Obviously these things aren’t that bad if the cops can be allowed to do them. No one–NO ONE–would tolerate the cops murdering people to get arrests. And that’s for a reason: because murder is a real crime.

  10. oops, that’s a link to an Oregon house bill for the state to grow tax and sell pot.

  11. Even older joke:
    replace Phish with Grateful Dead.

    Hey didn’t Phish break up like ten years ago?

  12. I feel safer already.

  13. You should have seen the live feed from my website of all this going down in Hampton… people were freaking out. Stay tuned for more broadcasts this summer. I am going to hire actors to play cops and we are going to punk a bunch of kids to watch their reaction when we “bust” them. At the very least we’ll get a lot of free drugs and cash. That’s not a crime.. is it?

  14. Episiarch: The state of Florida, at least, does allow vice cops to actually have sex with prostitutes before arresting them! :-/

  15. They have pot worth $3k an ounce in Ohio? I’m thinking business venture!

  16. I don’t know what the law is in Virginia, but scalping tickets is illegal in most states.

    I’m not sure of Virginia specifically, but many states have relaxed the requirements on ticket resales (thanks to StubHub and the like). Many of them now (DC I know in particular) just prevent transactions within a certain radius of the venue. They have also, iirc, pushed the enforcement on transferablity onto the orginator, as it should be (which is more practical now, with customizable tickets with a persons name a la airlines)

  17. guess virginia does not need stimulus money if they have the resources to waste!

  18. No one–NO ONE–would tolerate the cops murdering people to get arrests.

    I’m pretty sure we could dig up more than a few cases of something like this in the history the war on drugs. That mexican dude with the ‘death house’ who was a DEA informant is nearly a distinction without a difference.

  19. Episiarch: The state of Florida, at least, does allow vice cops to actually have sex with prostitutes before arresting them! :-/

    As if Miami Vice didn’t have enough going for it, they also apparently don’t have to pay for their hookers.

    That mexican dude with the ‘death house’ who was a DEA informant is nearly a distinction without a difference.

    That Mexican dude was killing Mexicans not people. If he had killed 1 at least moderately attractive white female he’d be sitting on death row and his handlers would be in deep shit. Hell, I bet some of those Mexicans probably smoked marijuana.

  20. What does a Phish fan say when he runs out of pot?

    This band sucks.

    You know, Phish may suck, and I may hate hippies (with the exception of Roine Stolt), but God damn it makes me sad to hear about this. This story is the drug war in a nutshell: arresting a shitload of people who never did anybody no harm, and calling it a great success. Those cops must feel like big men.

  21. Since the cops get to keep at least a portion of all the stuff they seize, why not just sell the drugs on the street, make the police force fucking RICH ($1.2 million worth of drugs, after all), then go bust the drug dealers again with all the new high tech gadgets?

  22. In what I see as a related note: the douchebag that killed all those folks here in SE Alabama was depressed at not being a Cop or a Marine. Coincidence?

  23. We have a long way to go to achieve parity in substance abuse arrests.Minorities are arrested disproportionately to their percentage of the drug using population.They don’t have the same treatment options as these privileged white youth either.I wish we ,as a society, used a medical intervention approach instead of a criminal justice one.

  24. So if a cop goes up to a suspected terrorist and asks for some C-4 in exchange for concert tickets, and the suspected terrorist gives him some, that’s not police work either?

    What sort of half-assed terrorist is going to trade C4 for concert tickets?

    The idea reminds me of my father’s arrest in Boston when I was a kid. The city had decided to crack down on scalping, so naturally an enterprising undercover cop decided that in lieu of looking for ticket scalpers, he’d just offer outrageous prices to people heading toward the Garden and slap the cuffs on the fools who’d said yes. My dad didn’t really care about the game, so when he was offered ten times the face value of his ticket, it was inevitable that he was headed downtown.

  25. ‘What sort of half-assed terrorist is going to trade C4 for concert tickets?’

    What if it was a Led Zeppelin concert tour and they were singing ‘Allah my love’? No self-respecting terrorist would want to miss *that.*

    Unless he was one of those infidel terrorists, in which case I’m sure he’d trade his C4 in exchange for the chance to see Rush.

  26. I want to know the name of the confidential informant who let them know there would be marijuana use at this particular concert.

  27. Quit your whining- just move to California where no one cares who smokes pot.

  28. Viva la police force!

  29. I want to know the name of the confidential informant who let them know there would be marijuana use at this particular concert.

    Is it too soon to declare this a win?

  30. Art-POG,

    Is it too soon to declare this a win?

    Not at all. Winner and thread over.

  31. Yeah, that one won. Reminds me of when the cops pulled over Willie Nelson’s tour bus after playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival a coupla years back.

    And that’s one of the problems with the Drug War. When it’s used to crack down on small time users just to up the success stats.

    Why aren’t these cops if they are so passionate about busting drug traffickers trying to get on the El Paso or San Diego Police Dept.s where they could really get some big time offenders?

    But most of America goes along with the ‘But, they did break the law’ meme.

    It’s why traffic cams, low alcohol blood level DUI designation and low possession levels are so popular.

    A cop can eat donuts and drink coffee and then get his crime-busting quota with little work.

    Seriously, cops are becoming more like cashiers.

  32. Cops are mostly tax collectors with guns, jester.

  33. Couple points:

    1. To Jennifer: sorry but you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. Hampton is renown for having some of the best acoustics in the country for a venue of its size. Make fun of Phish all you want, but the band members know a good thing when they see one. It is their favorite venue.

    2. How much would it burn everyone’s ass to know that the significant police presence at Hampton was PAID FOR BY THE BAND?

    3. From many first hand reports, I’m told you had to be really really really dumb to get busted. There was plenty of illicit activity in the parking lots, venue, and nearby hotels for three days straight. They arrested the dumbest of the dumb. Not saying that makes it right, but common sense goes a long way in these situations.

  34. Eric S:

    1) True about the acoustics. I’ve been to every Phish show at Hampton since ’98, and it is my single favorite place to see a show.

    2) Ouch. Really, ouch.

    3) The cops were remarrrrrrkably low-key, but no doubt had quotas to fill. And it’s hard to blame a kid for getting greedy about a ticket and trying to pawn of a bag of coke or a vial of acid for a ticket. I had a *lot* of cash and a Saturday ticket to trade (retailing on StubHub for at least $400 in the days before the show) and it took me four hours Friday to get a ticket to that show.

    Whatever, hate on hippies all you want, that was the best fkn party ever.

    And can we quit with the hippie/pot jokes? Fuck, we partied harder than most of you ever dreamed of, and the after-parties were probably a more effective “stimulus” package for Colombia than anything Pablo’s old buddy Uribe could ever come up with.

  35. PAID BY THE BAND!

    reminds me of when Conan O’Brien fingered Terrence & Phillips on his show.

    At least he had the decency to jump out of the window after his dispicaple Judas moment.

  36. This is a good idea. It reminds me of a similar program, “Operation Dead End”, that was run by the DEA at Grateful Dead concerts and got lots of LSD addicts arrested and into life in prison terms.

    “A drug free world, we can do it!”

  37. Good ol’ 23666 zipcode.

    I used to like Phish back when i was a dumbass highschooler. A couple months ago i got out some of my old CDs and listened to them for the first time in a decade. Yeah, they suck.

  38. 2. How much would it burn everyone’s ass to know that the significant police presence at Hampton was PAID FOR BY THE BAND?

    Not much, since I’m sure paying for the band was a requirement imposed by the city for having a concert there.

    I seriously, seriously doubt the Phish pholks called city hall and said “Hey, you know all those cops that are going to be hassling our fans? I know you were planning to pay for that, but we’d like to pick up the tab. No, seriously, we insist.”

  39. I don’t know that Phish sucks, but I’m not a fan. Certain artists have a sort of style (IMHO Phish and Dave Matthews Band are perfect examples) that’s sort of polarizing.

  40. Certain artists have a sort of style (IMHO Phish and Dave Matthews Band are perfect examples) that’s sort of polarizing.

    Article uses “weasel words”, does not meet Wikipedia standards and may require cleanup.

  41. Hard to blame the cops on this one. Sure the law they were sent out to enforce is stupid. But most people take the easiest path to getting their jobs done, and cops are no exception. So if a guys job is to go out an get drug arrests, it probably took very little internal debate when deciding between going out on the street and making arrests the hard way, or going down to a Phish concert and just picking up enough people to satisfy the boss.

  42. Not much, since I’m sure paying for the band was a requirement imposed by the city for having a concert there.

    If this was the case, did the city also require that the security be cops and an alphabet soup of federal agencies instead of a private firm?

  43. If this was the case, did the city also require that the security be cops and an alphabet soup of federal agencies instead of a private firm?

    Actual cops instead of private security? Probably. I’ve seen it done that way lots of times.

    Dunno about the Feds. Did Phish pick up the tab for them.

    Seriously, why on earth would Phish volunteer to pay for this?

  44. Police arrested 250 people on drug charges during three days of Phish concerts at Virginia’s Hampton Coliseum over the weekend. They seized $68,000 in cash and claim to have found drugs worth $1,213,882.80* …

    Don’t we all feel a little bit safer now? It’s good to see that so little violent and property crimes exist in Hampton VA, that the constabulary has nothing better to do than bust pot smopkers at a concert.

    * That’s $4,855.53 per bust. That’s 4-5 kilos of Columbian bud per bust. The duffel bags must have tipped off the cops.

  45. Absolutely, Thom, which is why I think most libertarians blame drug policy for this sort of thing, and not the fuzz.

  46. I wear a uniform, and if cops are like Soldiers, then:

    Some cops are heroes, some cops are bullies, some cops are thugs but most cops are just working stiffs.

  47. The Raw Story also consulted a defense attorney on the question of whether it amounted to entrapment

    Entrapment is the most misunderstood defense by the general public in criminal law. For it to be valid, the defendant must prove that he was not predisposed to commit the crime in the first place. Proving a negative fact like this is very hard to do, while disproving it is very easy (“My client had no weed in his house” vs. “His friend had weed and the defendant has Legend by Bob Marley in his CD collection.”). Thus the defense almost never works.

  48. Here these losers are seen behind bars for SEVERE PUNISMENTS they deserve to pay their debt to society.

    “A drug free world, we can do it!”

  49. Hampton is renown[ed] for having some of the best acoustics in the country for a venue of its size

    Then perhaps they spent tax dollars renovating it since my day. Nice to see the local government has the same wise fiscal priorities they did when I left. When I visited Hampton two Octobers ago for the first time in a decade, I had to admit the high-tech Coliseum advertising sign was far more impressive than the one they used to have. And the fake antique streetlights they put up in Phoebus are lovely as well. If I were still paying taxes in that city, I’d go read a book underneath them at night and think “Oh, hell yes, this was MUCH better than letting me keep my money for my own damned self.”

  50. $1,213,882.80

    Actually, that is a rounded value. The actual value was $1,213,882.82

  51. Okay, so somebody may have already said this because I’m not reading all these comments. I also know that nobody will likely read this one. But 80 cents? How do you seize any quantity of drugs worth change? I mean, I’ve bought plenty of drugs in my time and I don’t think I’ve ever needed coins. Whatever drug this is, I’m interested.

  52. Whatever drug this is, I’m interested.

    Apparently, drug dealers have started charging tax.

  53. you are all retarded. phish is a great band. you need to listen to thier live stuff. i have loved phish since 1994. i have been to 18 shows in my life. every one of them except two were amazing. and who cares if people smoke pot? what is the big deal? seriously? drug free commercials about maijuanna are completley false. barin-washing. listen to live phish. i love them high or sober. they are excellent and very talented. and can even play every instrument and also with a vacuum cleaner.

  54. clearly heads smoke mad ganja at phish shows. tis what simply goes down man

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