Saturday, August 13, 2016

Germany: One weekend, one music festival - 770 more drug war casualties

Summer time is drug war time in Germany.

A friend recently told us how he saw a flyer at one of the music festivals he works. According to him, the flyer read: Clean Driver, truck license.

How does that work?

A person who does not drink or do drugs drives your vehicle through police checkpoints, and then you take over and drive home.

The blogster had read last year how Germans face both administrative and judicial punishment if caught with even small amounts of soft drugs. Even when prosecutors decline to indict someone, many DA offices report the offense to the person's motor vehicle department. The latter routinely issues a request for a current drug test, which costs around 200 Euros. Failure to produce a test within the strict deadline of three days after being asked to do so will trigger automatic suspension of a driver's license.

The friend gone to set up his vending booth at another of the many summer festivals, the blogster began digging for some numbers. Once again, a shoutout to the internet: thank you!

Some police forces put out press releases detailing all sorts of events at and around music festivals. For example, the police of Itzehoe released this one regarding the first day of Germany's huge metal festival Wacken Open Air, an event with about 75 000 attendees. Media reports after the recent terror attacks in Germany mentioned a possible ban of backpacks at festivals but the press release is silent on this topic.

The police press release mentions "lots of music and lots of alcohol" as well as "repeated" finds of small amounts of drugs, going on to say that 15 seizures and criminal complaints were made. After two days, the count was 57 incidents, according to the latest press release.

That's a tiny number compared to this police infomercial in the run-up to the 65 000 people techno festival NatureOne in the south. Police reports that almost 770 criminal charges related to drugs were filed against NatureOne visitors in 2014, not including driving under the influence cases, of which another 240 were reported, but without breaking down the figure into alcohol and drug related.

Comparing the two events and the police announcements and press releases makes one thing abundantly clear: officials responsible for Wacken did not field the full drug ware arsenal that the police brought to bear on NatureOne participants. The latter faced "continuous" checks of persons and vehicles before, during, and after the festival. Figures for 2016 don't seem to be available yet. The event ended only a few days ago, and a radio and TV station report only mentions "approximately 90 officers" dedicated to looking for drug offenses.

The German version of the drug war is far less violent and deadly than the "original", the U.S. incarnation. On the flip side, the stigma is far greater, and the basically unchecked and fundamentally arbitrary "punishment by DMV" without ever seeing a judge has even been criticized by legal scholars as discriminating and obsolete.

Common and insidious arguments on the legalization of cannabis in Germany can be found in the earlier post The fight against cannabis legalization - German style.

[Same day update] Grammar, spelling.

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