Every year, the energy drink company Red Bull sponsors a touring cliff-diving competition. (Cliff-diving, for those unfamiliar, is the sport of jumping off a cliff). The Texas stop on the tour, late last month at Possum Kingdom Lake, sure looked fun, the type of event where you might expect to find people partying. Among local participants was a group of five volunteer wake-boarders from the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of NORML, the marijuana advocacy group. But, if officers from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife are to be believed, there are some people at the cliff dive who do not approve of the stench of marijuana.
On May 30, the second day of the competition, Texas game wardens arrested all five people on the DFW-NORML boat, who were there to compete. The arrests, first reported by High Times Magazine, were for charges of possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. The wardens say they found about three grams of marijuana.
“The other boats said they were smoking marijuana and the smoke and stuff was blowing across their boats, and they didn’t appreciate it very much,” says Pat Canan, the Captain Game Warden out of Wichita Falls, who was on the scene that day to transport the NORML wake-boarders to the jail. David Sloane, a NORML attorney and public information officer for the DFW chapter, was also there that day and offers a very different account of what happened.
Sloane says that he left the area to re-fuel his jet ski, and when he returned there were two game wardens aboard the NORML boat. One of the wardens told him that he had found marijuana “all over” the boat, Sloane says. It was a statement that Sloane found difficult to believe. He says he was also given two different reasons for why the wardens were on the boat in the first place. In one version, someone with binoculars apparently saw the marijuana and complained, Sloane says, while another warden told him that they could smell the marijuana and somehow determined it was coming from the NORML boat. “They arrested everybody on the boat, and I have a problem with that,” Sloane says.
According to Canan, the officers approached the boat to ask about drugs after hearing complaints. “I think they asked if there was any illegal drugs on the boat, and one of the occupants handed them the marijuana and the pipe,” Canan says. Yet, Canan also says that none of the wake-boarders would admit that the weed was theirs. “The warden specifically asked all five occupants whose marijuana it was and none of them claimed it,” Canan says. That’s why the wardens arrested the whole boat, he says. Sloane disputes this account, instead saying that the owner of the marijuana told him he took full responsibility. “I said, ‘You’re taking all of them?’ And he [the arresting warden] said, ‘Yeah, and if you had been on the boat they would have took you too.'”
The NORML wake-boarders weren’t the only people arrested that day. Jail logs from Palo Pinto jail show that Texas Parks and Wildlife officers made ten arrests total during the competition weekend. The other people were arrested for public intoxication or boating while intoxicated.
Canan insists that the wardens are only there to check on boat safety and aren’t purposely going after people who are intoxicated or who are riding in a NORML boat. “I don’t think they targeted it because it was a NORML boat. I think they targeted it because it was the call-in complaints,” Canan says.