Last weekend the Lawrence, Kansas, Journal-World reported that Lawrence police used “$250,000 worth of hidden-camera, night-vision, and thermal-imaging equipment” to pop drug dealers at June’s hippie-friendly Wakarusa Festival.
My first thought is something that Todd Barry said during a roast of Chevy Chase: “It’s not as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. It’s as easy as looking at fish in a barrel. It’s as easy as being somewhere near a barrel.” If you can’t bust a shroom dealer at a Sound Tribe Sector 9 concert without a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of surveillance equipment, you should be forced to turn in your badge on principle alone.
But after that my reaction gets a little less fun. Where did that thing called “expectation of privacy” go? Has it become unreasonable to assume that somebody in a large park full of hippies wouldn’t be on infrared video? I’m reminded of the RAVE Act, which had some real potential not only to kill off raves, but potentially destroy almost all live music in the country by essentially declaring any venue where someone so much as lights up a joint the legal equivalent of a crack house. I know it got shot down–raves died off without it–but you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to imagine state or local governments deciding to come up with their own equivalent. If something like this can happen in Lawrence–the only place in Kansas worth going to–I can easily see it happening somewhere a little more uptight.
I’m not trying to pretend that buying weed is an inalienable right. But at this point isn’t getting fucked up in a field full of people while some dude plays guitar solos considered a protected part of our heritage?