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August 18, 2009

Drug busts at the Merriweather Phish show

phish merriweather crowd shotCan't say I didn't see this coming.

According to a piece by my coworker Don Markus, cops made 31 arrests at Saturday's Phish show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

Jeffrey S. Tatum of Fort Collins and three of his friends -- Robert Kennamer Duncan, 32, also of Fort Collins; William James Leonard, 29, of Burlington, Vt.. and Jerald Griffin Irving, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y. -- were among 31 people arrested by Howard County police. ...

Tatum's vehicle contained drugs and more than $12,000, police said. The men were charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, possession of marijuana and other drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Don wanted me to ask you guys to e-mail him about what you thought of the police presence at the show. Were they being fair? Aggressive?

E-mail him at

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:04 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Drug busts at a Phish concert? Like shooting fish in a barrel...not very sporting of the fuzz.

"In addition to those arrests, police made 20 arrests for possession of controlled dangerous substances including LSD, nitrous oxide and marijuana"

"The band's concert drew nearly 20,000 people. "

I'm surprised they only found 51 people with drugs at a Phish show. That seems amazingly low.

Rob is right. Only 51 people?

If you told me 51 people out of 20,000 Phish fans, possessed soap I would believe it.

We can still make fun of hippie stink, right? It's hipster stink that's off limits now.

That's quite the buzz kill. Pretty lame.

Oh and wasn't there a shootout going on in Harbor Place around this time? Why not let the Phish fans smoke pot and send the extra cops to the City to fight the violence and confiscate some of the illegal guns.

They would arrested more, but he jail can only hold 50 people in Mayberry.

31 people not 51 - can you not read? That's way too many. I bet they were all non-violent.

Beav, the article goes on to say "In addition to those [31] arrests, police made 20 arrests for possession of controlled dangerous substances including LSD, nitrous oxide and marijuana." That's why I said 51.

Ha, and now I question myself. Beav's probably right. I think I read it wrong with the 20 being part of the 31. Silly me. :P

"...police made 20 arrests for possession of controlled dangerous substances including LSD, nitrous oxide and marijuana."

Oh come on...the guy was carrying around a case of Reddi Wip. Since when did become a controlled dangerous substance?

i think it's very sad that people are getting shot and killed in the city EVERY DAY, and the cops want to roust a few people for having a good time and not hurting anyone (besides themselves)

we seem to have our priorities slightly skewed, eh?

legalize it, tax it, and pay for more cops to catch the real scum of the earth!

Yep. The county police should have been patrolling Baltimore city and that shooting would not have occurred. Nevermind of course, that the shooting was on private property.

Try again, Chong.

51 out of 20,000 is astronomically low considering the police presence. There were cops everywhere, I mean everywhere!!!!

Thank God! I feel much safer now. I understand that some of these punks were trying to spread a good vibe and other egregious crimes against humanity.

I also read that some of them got busted for smilin' on a cloudy day.

Keep up the good work!

So, ummmm, what we're all saying here is that the music of Phish is so bad that one has to be under the influence of illicit/narcotic substances to actually enjoy it.

And I would have had to pay MONEY to attend a concert of such music?

Nope, sorry, not getting this..........

Guys, go back and read the piece. All the arrests mentioned (including the 20) add up to 31.

Arrest rate at Saturday's Phish show with blanket police coverage: 0.1555%.

National arrest rate in 2007: 4.716%. That's 30 times higher.

Where is that cited in these reports?

The police had 31 arrests, the fire department had 75 patients for drug overdose and intoxication. for the most part it was a quite show...The morons in the mobile home was quite entertaining though watching them all jump out of the vehicle at the same time to avoid getting locked up.

I agree with Rob. I mean how many Phish fans were rolling into Columbia with 9mm's in their waistbands? The had a friggin' helicopter hovering over the parking lot!! Way to spend those tax dollars Howard Co!

By the way Fuzz, there is a multi-department Warrant Apprehension Task Force in Baltimore City that Howard County police DO participate in. Those same cops busting kids for pot actually could have been in Baltimore going after violent criminals. Check things out before you post bold-faced insults Sgt. Stedenko!

Anyway, the overwhelming police presence was just ridiculous. If they had that many cops at other Merriweather shows they would often bust just as many people for various offenses. Ever heard of the annual Sunday in the Country show held there? You know how many wasted rednecks get in fights and occasionally pull knives out in the parking lot?

How about the Summer Spirit festival there the weekend before Phish? It was a sellout and I heard from a friend who works security at MPP that he was certain there were some gang members at the show(presumably from the city - and my security guard friend lives in a neighborhood where gangs operate). Guess what, hardly any cops (he estimated 6!).

What this boils down to is that the Phish crowd is an easy target. The cops know there will be drugs and also that most hippies are mellow and less likely to resist. Let's see if Howard County deploys the "commadoes", undercovers and helicopters at either of the metal shows at Merriweather this weekend. I think we already know the answer to that.

@Sandy - No one stated that the music was bad and not all people attending were in an altered state of consciousness. However, drugs coupled with live outdoor music has been a counter culture tradition for at least 40 years. See Woodstock.

@Cheech - great post

Cheech, the helicopter was there because the Senator's son wanted to pop the question to his girlfriend. The cops couldn't get the boat in the parking lot.

hahahah nice, sturmy.

seriously, what kind of proposal is that?

oh snap the cops are searching the boat, oh snap you're under arrest, oh snap, will you marry me?

good lord what a stunt.

Police departments get funding based on the number of seizures, murders, etc..that they incounter. The more drugs they can say are in Howard county (with proof) when trying to get that funding the more money they will get. Non-Violent offences like the ones that would be found at a Phish show do not warrnet the presnse that the fuzz implemented. Phish hates the police so i would be surprised if they even come back to Merriweather. It is hard to enjoy a show when police are all around you which is why i prefer festivals or shows on private property. Its sad that they are invading bussinesses and making people not even want to go during these hard times. To be honest I live in Annapolis and I would have known going into the show that that kind of stuff doesnt fly in Howard county just becuase of the amount of Yuppies that live there.

And for the person above who commented that if you need drugs to see the show it must not be good. YOU SUCK and dont know [snuff] becuase you have clearly never done it before or you wouldnt have said it!! and you are clearly a cop b/c you sure as [snuff] were not at the Phish show or you would have been [flibbed] up with everyone else, and you sure as [snuff] have never triped at an outdoor concert b/c it is a great time and you wouldnt have said that!

And for any cops reading this post you can [do something nasty] too! Unless you are a cop that is really just trying to serve and protect and not profile peaceful people for personal decisions that the government deems bad.

Hey BJP,

You are comparing an annual arrest rate to arrests occurring in one day. If you are to correctly compare the two rates, the number of arrests at the Phish show were 12 times the annual arrest rate. Don't quote figures unless you have at least a slight clue as to what you are talking about.

I actually didn't notice a ton of cops. Perhaps that is because of the screwy parking situation at Merriweather.

Ummm last I heard smoking pot was illegal, and it's especially frowned upon in public I'd guess. I'd like to have sex in public too but I don't DO IT. What kind of idiot would smoke marijuana at a concert or anywhere in public? If you are unfortunate enough to be saddled with that albatross of a brain-killing habit, at least do it at home where you're only harming yourself and not possibly influencing others to think it's ok to use illegal drugs. I don't understand what all the whining is about here. Use illegal drugs in public, get arrested, go to jail. Sounds simple enough to me. Good job Howard County, keep up the good work.

I've seen people having sex in public at Phish concerts, too.

@jc - in case you weaken, there are a number of support groups to help you resist your agoraphilia (better known as bushie mall on the Phish concert tour)

everyone knows the howard county police department has nothing better to do than get the easy way to a quota. anyone that lives in and or around columbia has seen that action first hand. theres unsolved murders in columbia and they wast their time on the highways pulling over speeders. or at phish shows arresting people for possession.

Johnnycat, it's about priorities not legality.

Why not have sex in public Johnnycat, or is that dangerous too?

Ok, Ill agree it's about priorities, but don't come at me like "awww geesh you mean I can't smoke pot at this concert?".

And birthdaycamel, you kinda got me there. I've had sex in semi-public a few times, but I don't know how "in danger" I felt while I was doing it.

johnnycat - you're right - everybody should only keep the brain-killing habit of legal drugs. you know the kind this blog endlessly talks about, beer, mojitos, cocktails, etc.

holy crap! my brother got knocked down by one of those cops when they were making the arrests there!!!!

This is back to the last few Dead shows in the mid 90's. Cops in Rosedale had a rental truck set up for processing all the busts. One morning we were heading back to Soldiers Field early and saw what we thought was a large crowd of freaks listening to some speaker. It was Chicago cops and DEA going over the soon to commence parking lot sweeps. Think 200 undercovers looking everything like old hippies to young college students. Stopped going to all shows after that. No drugs= no fun.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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