Pubdate: Sun, 01 May 2016
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Zach Dennis


Concertgoers Indulge in Marijuana in Violation of City Law.

WEST PALM BEACH - After 7:30 p.m. Friday night, you could smell it.

There was no escaping the odor, which permeated the night sky like 
smoke bellowing from a chimney. The stench of marijuana was as 
prevalent and as synonymous with SunFest as the downtown traffic jams.

While the crowd can easily tell you what was being smoked, it - like 
law enforcement - cannot tell you specifically who was smoking it. As 
one vendor, who requested to remain anonymous, remarked, "It is 
impossible to pinpoint where it is happening at."

That's not entirely true. It comes from the crowds - the vapor rose 
above them as the bands rocked out - but in this circumstance, there 
is nothing anyone can do about it. Smoking marijuana is just part of 
the ambience of SunFest.

In August, a city law allowed West Palm Beach police the option to 
either issue a $100 fine in lieu of making an arrest for possession 
of under 20 grams of marijuana or drug paraphernalia. But that amount 
is easy to sneak into the festival.

"You can hide it in your socks if they're high (enough)," noted one 
teenage vendor worker, Alexis Elias. And teenagers would be the ones 
who would know, since they're the chief culprits, escaping to tightly 
woven small groups to puff on a blunt. City police said Saturday 
morning that they had made all of one arrest at SunFest through 
Friday - and that was for trespassing, not drug use.

Once your nose catches the odor, the source isn't hard to find: the 
middle of the crowd in front of the musical act. Several teens said 
that by lighting up and smoking (or doing any kind of drug) in the 
middle of the crowd, it makes it more difficult for law enforcement 
to get to them.

"What're they going to do? Grab one person out of the crowd and 
check? That will take too long," said a vendor, who asked for anonymity.

One group of younger SunFest patrons was startled to be asked about 
marijuana use, and some said little out of fear of being outed as 
smoking an illegal substance. A few did say they have never had any 
problems with being caught before. In contrast, a high school-aged 
kid was being talked to by one of the festival officers an hour 
before and instructed to dump out the contents of a flask in his possession.

Finding people outside the moshpit using recreational drugs isn't as 
easy. The weapon of choice for most was the vape pen. This allows 
them to smoke with a mask of anonymity. The smell may give them away, 
but it is hard to say exactly what drug is being used just based on the device.

One group smoking with a vape pen remarked that drug use is just 
something that happens at these kinds of events. Added one of its 
members, who would not divulge a name: "You can't think that there 
won't be drugs being used at a music festival. That's just what happens."

For the most part, people did not seem to mention any criminal 
activity from anyone using drugs. Pamela Leoutsakos, a vendor with 
Pretzel Plus, said that someone, who seemed to be under the influence 
of drugs, stole a pretzel from her stand on Thursday.

"She definitely wasn't drunk," Leoutsakos said, but she could not 
with certainty attribute the crime to marijuana. "(Drug use) is 
definitely a problem, but they usually go away (from the crowd) and 
do it," she said.

Can you have a music festival without marijuana? Most of the people 
who spoke about it said it is just impossible to enforce any rule 
against it, and "don't ask, don't tell" was the answer nearly 
everyone gave. And so they partied on, getting away with an act of 
their own as a new act broke though machine-fired smoke and onto the 
SunFest stage.

Staff writer Susan Salisbury contributed to this story.
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