The Deadheads will soon start straggling into Fairfax County court, which Deadheads do, as the result of a mass arrest of alleged drug dealers at the Furthur concert at George Mason’s Patriot Center last month. Furthur is the band led by former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
But the 30 people busted down on Braddock Road serve as a forceful reminder from the Fairfax County police as the concert season nears: The war on drugs is still being fought at street level here in NoVa, and those allegedly caught selling LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy and other drugs outside the Patriot Center are looking at felony convictions and possible jail time.
And for the 10th straight year, Fairfax police are joining with U.S. Park Police to target certain concerts at Wolf Trap in Vienna where drug use or underage drinking may be more likely to occur, a Wolf Trap spokesman said.
You’ve been warned, “Tcheers for Tchaikovsky!” fans.
The Furthur show on March 17 attracted the typical following of Deadheads from around the country selling veggie burritos and looking for “a miracle” [free ticket]. Undercover officers from Fairfax’s organized crime and narcotics unit penetrated the crowd, police said, and they clearly were not targeting the folks who were just puffing on the pot pipe before the show.
Among the 54 charges leveled against the 30 arrestees: six counts of distribution of LSD; possession with intent to distribute LSD; two counts of distribution of LSD on school property; distribution of mushrooms; distribution of mushrooms on school property; three counts of distribution of schedule II narcotics; seven counts of distribution of ecstasy, and seven counts of distribution of ecstasy on school property.
The “school property” charges alone have a minimum one-year prison sentence upon conviction.
Fairfax police have heard all the arguments about drugs being a victimless crime, and they’ve got just as many responses showing that it’s far from victimless. Plus, they say, it’s the law.
“We want everyone to enjoy themselves at these events,” Fairfax Officer Don Gotthardt said, “without being exposed to the criminal element. If you bring contraband to an event, remember you never know who might be sitting next to you. It could be a Fairfax County police officer.”
In 2004, Fairfax police and Park Police nabbed 46 fans of the Rockville band O.A.R. at Wolf Trap for underage drinking, and a handful of others for marijuana possession. Wolf Trap officials said then that they’d been meeting with police since 2002 to review the concert calendar and figure out which shows present the biggest “challenges,” then-park director William Crockett said.
“When you see somebody 16 years old go out of here in an ambulance,” Crockett said, “it makes you want to cry.”
The undercover police presence at certain Wolf Trap shows will continue this season, spokesman Graham Binder said. In addition to the police, Wolf Trap staff members who book the bands also consult on which acts “might be a little edgier or a little more problematic,” Binder said, “in terms of drinking and drug use.”
The State of NoVa has analyzed the Wolf Trap lineup for this summer and some of the shows likely to attract police attention include: Peter Frampton (how else you gonna sit through 17 minutes of “Do You Feel Like We Do”?); Creedence Clearwater Revisited (flannel shirt ODs also possible); Bela Fleck and the Original Flecktones (big with Deadheads); Reggae Revival with parts of UB40 and the Wailers (I said reggae); and the Doobie Brothers.
And now, at the 3:00 mark, here is former Rep. Tom Davis of Fairfax County discussing the Doobie Brothers on the Colbert Report’s segment about Virginia’s 11th Congressional District.