Bureaucracy strangles DFW NORML’s Lake and Bake
Bureaucracy has helped a Texas city strangle a marijuana advocacy organization’s event to the point of cancellation.
Lake and Bake, an annual event put on by the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (DFW NORML), was originally scheduled for July of 2016 at Rockledge Park on Lake Grapevine. The event began but quickly drew more attendees than the organization’s permit allowed for. Soon after, police arrived and shut down the event due to the large number of people. It was also mentioned that an employee with the City of Grapevine observed people consuming cannabis and had a hand in shutting down the event.
David Sloane, a local attorney who serves as the Public Information Officer for the organization, told Texas Cannabis Report that the crowd was much larger than expected.
“Historically our Lake and Bakes at this location have drawn around 500 people, but never more than 250 to 300 at a time. This event grew to over 500 within an hour after the gates opened, and hundreds more were on their way,” Sloane stated. “They really only shortened our event by a couple or three hours, and frankly I think it’s historic that when we have events now more people show up than the facilities can accommodate.”
This led to the organization planning a second Lake and Bake event for August at Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie, a location where the same event had been held in previous years.
Adam Hess, the organization’s Deputy Director, was tasked with getting everything in order with the City of Grand Prairie for the second event, and initially a permit was approved. However, the city then told him that they would need a special event permit. After applying for this permit, the city dragged their feet on the matter, taking over two weeks before telling the organization that their permit had been denied.
“Upon looking at the permit only one person had denied our request and that was Lt. Marc Taddonio of the Grand Prairie Police Department, however he gave no reasoning as to why the permit was denied. I called Lt. Taddonio daily, at times twice a day, to find out why our permit was denied and to see if we could get it in writing but never got a return phone call or email from him explaining the reason for our denial.”
The police department was only one of several departments which had reviewed the application however.
That’s when Sloane stepped in and contacted the city.
After attempting to speak with the police department, he then contacted the city manager’s office. Within an hour of doing so, the police department responded by having Sloane contact the city attorney’s office. That was on a Wednesday.
“I attempted to call the city attorney and he was ‘out of the office.’ I left a message with the receptionist for him to call me back which he never did. The next day I made numerous calls to the city attorney’s office and every number I tried I got voicemail. Monday I finally got through to an assistant city attorney and she told me verbally that the police department had changed their position and they were now going to allow our permit with a stern warning that there would be a police presence. I told her that was no problem and that we coexisted with law-enforcement very well at these events, and that actually the cops don’t mind coming to our events because they don’t get their uniform shirts ripped like they do by the large crowds beer drinkers.”
Finally receiving confirmation from the city with less than a week until the event, the DFW NORML Board of Directors made the decision to cancel the event.
While the non-profit organization’s director Shaun McAlister has stated that the presence of police at a peaceful event which did not require such a presence in the past was part of the reason for canceling the event, Sloane says it had a lot more to do with logistics than anything.
“I think the majority of the board just saw that there was no way we could organize such a large event with the very little time we had left after the foot-dragging by the city of Grand Prairie” Sloane says. “Site safety plans, crowd in traffic control, Porta potty’s, etc., all that and the approval process and red tape, there was just no way. Furthermore we were concerned such little notice would put extreme hardship on our vendors, especially the food vendors, who would have to purchase all the perishable groceries and prepare them to feed 900 plus people in a matter of days.” He adds, “we are no strangers to getting mass event permits when we need them, but experience has also told us this process usually takes weeks, not days.”
Hess added that he believes “DFW NORML gave them an adequate amount of time to handle our application and jumped through every hoop they sent our way with multiple applications and permits but in the end they kept delaying until we didn’t have the time to put this event together.” He also stated that “3 years ago when we had our 2nd annual Lake and Bake at the same location and same pavilion with 0 permits needed.”
DFW NORML now turns its focus and resources towards their annual Dallas Marijuana March, which will be happening on Saturday, October 1.