Over the past week people from all around the country and the world converged on northern Nevada to create one of the most unique events one can find in the world today. People with very diverse backgrounds came directly from places with many laws that were quite different from those in force in the Sliver State while some traveled over land, often crossing many borders.
With a half dozen law enforcement agencies patrolling the area, openly and undercover, actively running sting operations and looking to make busts, many people risk getting caught up in something far more serious than they think.
Marijuana is a popular topic at this event, yet nobody I met there realized that in Nevada possession of smoking paraphernalia carries a stiffer penalty than simple possession of up to an ounce of weed, a $1,000 fine compared to $600, or that anything over one ounce was a felony with a four year jail term.
Many Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians didn’t even expect any real punishment for possessing under an ounce. Many expected to be exempt due to having a medical card, not realizing the card needed to be in their physical possession or that there was a 2.5 ounce limit.
Other frequent law questions arose about gifting drinks, and how it was possibly legal. Serving alcohol 24/7 isn’t legal in most places, but Nevada places no restrictions on hours of operation. Considering the religiously enforced traffic laws, including a 5mph speed limit with people going 6mph getting tickets, knowing exactly what to do behind the wheel or even as a passenger is critical to avoid encounters that could ruin one’s experience.
It is important to remember that the law is always present. The lead up to this particular event is full of warnings about law enforcement and how to act, but even those rarely give all the information people really need. We as citizens need to be proactively aware of the laws where we’re going but rarely check in advance. We learn details as we go and then usually only when there is already a risk of someone having crossed a line, possibly without realizing the severity.
Traveling should be fun, not perilous, but not knowing where legal boundaries are can turn an exciting journey into a depressing disaster. Don't let that be you! Be informed and stay safe.