Yosemite: The Nation’s Go-To Park for Drug Busts

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Apparently, Yosemite is the place to visit for “deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias” and drug busts.

An NBC Bay Area report says Yosemite has more drug busts (20) per 100,000 visitors than any other national park in the country. That’s four times the rate of busts at Yellowstone, nearly seven times the Grand Canyon and 10 times Joshua Tree. Apparently, almost no one (1 in 100,000) gets busted in Death Valley.

Why the high rate? Theories abound, but an obvious contributor could be that Yosemite hosts more than 3 million people annually primarily in an area 7 miles square.

The report, citing Yosemite’s Annual Law Enforcement Reports, said 855 people had been arrested or cited there for drug possession during the past year, representing an 18% increase since 2007. The park had 2,393 arrests from 2010-2012 out of 11.7 million people. That works out to around 0.0002%. It could conceivably be worse, since 42% of American adults report having used marijuana, the country’s favorite illicit drug.

The report did not break down the arrests by drug, but quoted U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng, whose courthouse is in Yosemite Valley, as saying, “It’s been primarily marijuana, mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and then the party drug—ecstasy.”

Drugs were the #1 arrest category for four of the five national parks mentioned by NBC Bay Area. Disorderly conduct dominated the Grand Canyon list. But alcohol violations look suspiciously as if they’ve been spread across multiple categories, diminishing their presence. Overall, drugs (3,378 violations) were followed by disorderly conduct (1,484), liquor law violations (1,083), larceny (1,073), drunkenness (606), suspicious persons (519), driving while intoxicated (483) and vandalism (463). 

No one is claiming there is a correlation, but Yosemite’s surprisingly high “drug” numbers are matched by its surprisingly low “disorderly conduct” incidents. Over the past three years, Yosemite had six and a half times as many drug possession incidents as the Grand Canyon but less than half as many disorderly conduct arrests.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Drug Busts Going Up in Yosemite (by Elyce Kirchner and Mark Villarreal, NBC Bay Area News)

Exposed Yosemite Visitors Notified of Hantavirus Threat Years after Warnings Were Ignored (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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