With big festivals like SXSW (South by Southwest), ACL (Austin City Limits) and the dozens of other music/art-related attractions throughout the year, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visit Austin. Statistically, many of these people enjoy illicit substances on occasion. And of course Austin has the reputation of being a big, blue liberal dot in the middle of a conservative wasteland, so there’s nothing to worry about, right?
Not exactly. While it’s true that Austin is much more liberal than the neighboring counties and towns, drug laws are still heavily enforced in the town, and thousands of people are arrested for minor things like weed. There’s a misconception I’ve heard recently that Austin doesn’t prosecute for weed, or that it is ignored by the police. That might be true on a case-by-case basis, but if you look at the police blotter you’ll find that plenty of people are charged with simple possession every day.
Part of the confusion stems from a law passed a few years ago that “decriminalized” weed. Many people heard “decriminalize” and thought “great, that means it’s not criminal!” But this is not true, what the law actually states is that officers can now issue a ticket instead of making a physical arrest. But aside from avoiding a night in jail, the end-result is the same… you still have a drug charge that carries all the normal Texas punishments. And that night in jail is still not out of the question, any officer can still arrest you if they want, it’s simply up to their discretion.
If you encounter a State Trooper then do everything in your power to hide your drugs and keep them from being found. These guys are the Nazi SS of Texas, and it makes their day to bust a pot-smokin’ hippie. The same is true for any of the Sheriffs and local PD in surrounding counties. Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Caldwell, etc. are all very unkind to drug enthusiasts, and Williamson County (north of Austin along I35, aka WilCo) is one of the worst places in the country to get busted. Don’t let it happen to you.
There is some good news though. As long as you’re within the main parts of Austin, the APD officers are who you’re most likely to encounter. Typically APD guys are pretty chill, and as long as you treat them respectfully they’ll do the same. You might get lucky and find the guy who looks the other way, or confiscates the weed but doesn’t ticket/arrest you. Just make sure you’re not caught selling it, because they won’t be as cool.
But that’s for the city at large, within festival grounds there is a slightly different set of rules. For the most part open weed use is tolerated within places like ACL, SXSW venues and smaller festivals. That’s not to say lighting up in front of a cop is going to go unpunished, but as long as you’re not actin’ a fool or selling drugs you’ll typically be ok.
Psychedelics are on a strict Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. As long as you quietly dose your LSD, eat your shrooms or swallow your rolls, nobody is going to give you the third degree. Just don’t be the guy who takes too many mushrooms, strips totally naked and runs through a crowd of people… you might just get tackled.
Finding drugs in Austin can be a challenge. One would think “hey it’s a liberal, college town with tons of music, parties and festivals, drugs are everywhere!” Well, sort of. Some drugs are easily available. You can’t go two blocks downtown without passing by a weed smoker. Of course, that weed smoker might be a business exec worth millions. But suffice to say weed is not too hard to find. Meet 10 college-aged people and ask each where to find weed, you’re bound to get hooked up.
Other drugs can be a real pain in the ass. For legit, pure LSD or MDMA for example, you’re probably better off searching the internet. Without some seriously well-connected hookups, it is nearly impossible to locate good LSD or MDMA. Research chemicals like methylone, 2c-*, *-NBOMe and others are constantly being sold to people thinking they’re buying MDMA or LSD. Nowadays when I hear someone has some “legit acid” or “pure molls” available, I just roll my eyes and say “sure dude, let’s see the test results.”
Opiates and coke are a little easier to locate, but they still require a pretty strong network. If you really put your mind to it they can be found, but rarely are they going to fall into your lap. Austin is a good place to find weed, but not really anything else.
If you’ve come to Austin to party then you’re not alone. Most of the people in the city are cool with drugs, and as long as you make it without getting busted then you’ve won over half the battle. From there you just need to keep your drugs to yourself and not make yourself a target and you’ll probably be ok. And remember Lotus’ rule… only break one law at a time 😉