Smoked Out: Will Puffing Pot at Concerts Get You in Trouble?

Friday, Feb. 1, was going to be a great night for Jack Reynolds. He and his wife (whose real names will not be used here) had tickets to see The Who at Oracle Arena. The legendary English rockers were performing Quadrophenia, their lauded 1973 rock opera, on what some fear will be the band's final tour. Reynolds and his wife had pretty good seats, too, at the end of a row in Section 108.

As the lights went down at the start of The Who's set, the couple engaged in a ritual familiar to many Bay Area concertgoers: They lit a joint. They weren't alone — as Reynolds tells it, there were many people around smoking marijuana, quite a few of them older than him and his wife, who are in their mid-40s. But lighting that joint, as it turned out, was the beginning of the end of the couple's night in Oakland.

"Literally within a second of when the first song came on," Reynolds says, two Oakland police officers showed up next to him in the aisle. One of the cops angrily threw Reynolds and his wife out of the concert with no refund — only the cold promise of a citation in the mail. (No ticket has arrived as of press time.) Reynolds even showed the cop an ID card indicating he's a legal medical marijuana patient, to no avail. "[The officer] took our tickets away, and kicked us out the door," he says. "It freaked out everyone around us."

In an ironic twist, Reynolds is a psychologist employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and counsels violent offenders for a living. His wife is also a doctor. Like many music fans, they often smoke marijuana at concerts. And what happened to them on Feb. 1 is essentially a stoner's worst nightmare. The prevailing perception among Bay Area music fans, including Reynolds — until this month, anyway — is that while marijuana isn't exactly encouraged at concerts, it's always tolerated. Most pot smokers believe they can puff away during a show without fear of a cop or security guard kicking them out, much less of getting a ticket.

And in San Francisco, that is pretty much the case.

Ask local concert promoters and major club owners whether they care if people smoke pot at shows, and you'll either get a winking "no comment" or a big hit of straight talk — but only off the record. "I don't give a fuck if people smoke pot," says one S.F. club manager, who of course asked not to be named. "I'd much rather have a house full of stoners than drunks. Pot smokers don't start fights."

Club owners and police are quick to say they'll interfere if a person under the influence of any substance is causing a problem. But if not, city cops working festivals and large concerts have better things to do, says SFPD spokesman Albie Esparza. "This is San Francisco, and SFPD is very accustomed to marijuana floating about," he says, noting that the city has declared pot enforcement a very low priority. "As long as people are behaving and enjoying the venue, it's not really an issue."

Consider this before rolling up your next mega-spliff, though: Under certain circumstances, police officers are hired by event promoters to work as private security. In that case, their enforcement priorities are at the discretion of the people paying them. "If [the promoter] wants zero tolerance ... then that's what they'll do," Esparza says.

Oakland police did not respond to requests for comment for this story, but this seems a likely explanation for what happened to Dr. Reynolds and his wife. As it turns out, The Who singer Roger Daltrey is extremely sensitive to smoke, pot and otherwise. The group will only play in nonsmoking venues, and tries to make sure there's as little air pollution as possible. "The band plays no part in directing any personnel," says its publicist, Bari Lieberman, "but does make the request that the [no smoking] policy be enforced." Onstage in Oakland, Daltrey even asked fans not to light up — which, according to numerous reports, they mostly didn't.

So while we don't know for sure, Reynolds probably just took a big toke of bad luck: A cop watched him spark a joint at the end of a row, saw an easy target, and decided to act. It wasn't enough to keep the doctor and his wife from seeing The Who, though. A week after the Oakland show, they drove south to catch the band in Las Vegas — at a venue called, of all things, the Joint. It was announced at the start of the show that smoke would "tear up" Daltrey's voice. Given the warning, did Reynolds and his wife try to smoke pot at their second Who concert this year? Not exactly, he says: They used a vaporizer.

 
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28 comments
elizabethfrantes
elizabethfrantes

Good goddess, when did America lose all its sense of fun?  I recall in the 70s, in St Paul, attending the first St Paul appearance of The Tubes.  City council wanted it shut down, because of nekkid ladies . .. so the Tubettes put on a fake protest, dressed up like psycho suburban fraus, with signs, "No Titties in the Twin Cities"  . .. . the mayor said let the show go on, and he would personally attend.  Well, of all things, he sat directly behind me and my sister.  When the lights went down and the ganga was lit, my sis and I discussed whether we should pass our pipe of fine Afghan hash to the mayor, just to be neighborly . .. but we didn't want to embarrass him.  No one cared.  When I moved to SF not much longer, I actually felt freer to light up then than now.  Even medical pot patients aren't allowed to smoke even in their homes.  When SF decided to dump the freedom for corporate sponsorship and family friendly drek, the City lost its soul. 

TheFestivalLawyer
TheFestivalLawyer

Interesting article. I think a lot of this can be handled by a little consideration for those around you. At Hardly strictly bluegrass fest there was an announcement made to crowd asking if you were going to spark up to ask the folks around you if they had allergies or kids and to try not to blow in people's faces.  A little "hey is this cool" to your neighbors can do wonders at a festival for the overall vibe. That's true whether it's weed or telling folks "hey I'm going to stand up and dance and don't want to block your view" or a little "sorry bro" when you are moving through crowd and jostle things. OH and edibles and vaporizers might hypothetically avoid the whole situation if you know it's going to be a problem at your particular venue...

PJ Lugo
PJ Lugo

That is so fucking lame, it's not like the two were hitting a crack pipe.

DanMitchell
DanMitchell

Just a data point: Daltrey didn't mention his allergy to smoke until the show was nearly over. And he thanked the crowd for indulging him after he made the announcement.

John Lilly
John Lilly

I wish Bill Graham was still running shit up in here. Even though he wasn't a pothead himself, he didn't hire thugs to kick people out of concerts for doing what people do at concerts.

anonymousme
anonymousme

I attended a concert not too long ago at The Fox Theater in Oakland and was surprised to smell and see all the weed smoking concert-goers around me. I was up in the balcony with great seats, but I felt put off by how casual and acceptable this seemed to be. Funny thing is, I don't personally mind it. But I was with my father, who is in his 60s, and shouldn't have to put up with it. I was almost angry about it. If you can't smoke cigarettes inside (yuck) then you DEF shouldn't have to get high off of contact if you don't want to. This double standard HAS to go. It wasn't like I was at The Mezzanine or somewhere..

emailed12
emailed12

How sad is that the Reynolds can't go a couple of hours with out using marijuana? And after that behavior has clearly been shown to be detrimental, they still needed to partake, as it seems The Who isn't enough of a kick. A sad state of affairs.

ToolsOfIgnorance
ToolsOfIgnorance

I don't smoke pot. When I go to a show, why should I have to put up with it? Smoke outside. Or somewhere where such selfishness doesn't bother anyone.

chaki
chaki

Rumor has it The Independent recently "got in trouble" and is no longer tolerating 420 :(

bluepearlgirl
bluepearlgirl

@elizabethfrantes I could have not have said it better myself.  It saddens me to see the generally new mentality of residents.  What cave did these people come out of?  Why cant these poor fragile babies go back to it?!

elizabethfrantes
elizabethfrantes

anon, you daddy was around back in the day when no one cared who lit up what in concerts, unless you were in some gawdawful place like Oklahoma .. ..  pot has been used for thousands of years, and if by age 60 you daddy doesn't know that .. well . . ..

uncivilservant
uncivilservant

@anonymousme People in their 60's were and many still are the biggest potheads of us all !!! Stay away from shows and don't bring you parents or kids if you don't want them around marijuana....thats like going to a baseball game and expecting people not to eat Cracker jacks or popcorn...of course people are going to smoke pot at shows !!!!!! Were you a hall monitor as a child ????

bluepearlgirl
bluepearlgirl

@anonymousme Whaa Whaa Whaa.  Get over it.  You seriously need to lighten the heck up!   I think that is probably exactly what you could use... A little bit of  2nd hand pot smoke!  Even better... 1st.  It is not going to kill you and it is not going to kill your father.  How do you know that he might not just be enjoying it?  You are willing to go with the flow more about things like that at that age, so i really think that you are in denial and it is YOU that has the issue with it.  In that quantity per sqft. you are barely if at all getting high off of the wafting odor, and its odor is probably as offensive as that aftershave you chose to wear.  This is a big world with a lot of people in it.  Just because some people are smoking pot at a concert that you are at, doesnt compromise your health.  if you are going to get that bent over something as small as that,  in the future, you should just stay home and rent the boxed set.  Leave the fun having for people who want and allow others to have fun too.  And quit trying to fight your dad's fights.  He is a big boy.  If he was having a problem with it, let him voice it.  You just sound like a little bitch.

uncivilservant
uncivilservant

@emailed12  why should he have to ???? Don't go to a concert or bring your kids, parents..etc...what would you expect...once upon a time we used to rip up the seats and burn them

uncivilservant
uncivilservant

@ToolsOfIgnorance Don't ever come to one of our shows...maybe you will be held down and forced to get high, which would be amusing

www.reverbnation.com/Uncivilservant

DanMitchell
DanMitchell

@bluepearlgirl @anonymousme It seems to me that anon made a perfectly reasonable point, and you responded (repeatedly) like an emotionally unstable, self-entitled child. It's true that we should expect people to be smoking pot at concerts, but that doesn't mean it's not still a problem for some people - not for "moral" reasons, but because it's an irritant for them.

ToolsOfIgnorance
ToolsOfIgnorance

@bluepearlgirl @anonymousme Why should he have to "go with the flow"? It's a non smoking venue. IT DOES compromise your health. You do know what second hand smoke does, don't you? I've been to shows where people were getting over a cracked rib. Do you know what coughing might do to that person? All because someone feels the need to "light up". There are plenty of people who don't smoke it who don't want to be subjected to it that shouldn't. This has nothing to do with "loosening up". This has everything to do with the selfishness of the smokers. Get a clue.

uncivilservant
uncivilservant

@bluepearlgirl Yes, I totally support what you say...anyone who has a problem with marijuana has no place at a rock show period...


ToolsOfIgnorance
ToolsOfIgnorance

@bluepearlgirl @anonymousme This has nothing to do with stress. This has everything to do with two things: 1. California has a law that there is no smoking in those venues. I don't see any exclusions for Pot at rock concerts. 2. Pot is still illegal in this state. This has nothing to do with big brother. It's about me not having to put up with your shit. And I will win that argument every single time in one of those venues. I win. The end.

bluepearlgirl
bluepearlgirl

@ToolsOfIgnorance @bluepearlgirl @anonymousme Shower me with beer!  Its a CONCERT!!  Woo Hoo!!  You must be a youngin.  Because there is something called sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Get with the program!  And maybe dont be so uptight.  Stress will kill you WAY before weed will if this is your argument.  If you want to live a long time, relax a little!  You should be careful or it sounds like you could have a heart attack by 40!  Relax a little bit and go with the flow..  Thank goodness you are a drinker...  Because now i know you are also a hypocrite.  Nicely done.

ToolsOfIgnorance
ToolsOfIgnorance

@bluepearlgirl @anonymousme Ok...so how about if I have a few beers and let fly on you when I have to go to the bathroom. That's about the equivalent. Can I call you a baby if you complain then? I feel sorry for people that need to medicate so heavily to have a good time. Some of us don't need to.

bluepearlgirl
bluepearlgirl

@ToolsOfIgnorance @bluepearlgirl @anonymousme Well, arent we babies.  I am truly astounded by the stupidity and ignorance that seems to be coming into fashion these days.  Lets live our lives with fear looking over the shoulder (and fences!) of our neighbors.  Why do people like this even go to a ROCK CONCERT??  I really dont envision the above being the type to really enjoy themselves at... well... anything.  There has been weed at shows since the beginning of time.  So far... No one has died by being in another section.  People need to just mind their own business.  Reading the above, makes me want to go find a show and some weed just to light up in hopes that the tool above might be in the audience too somewhere.  Now that does sound fun!

 

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