Local police report drug seizures, excessive speeding during Shambhala

"We impounded 61 cars in seven days that were driving in excess of 40 kilometres an hour over the speed limit." ~ Sgt. John Ferguson

Every highway patrol unit in and out of the region was on duty Monday and Tuesday, as Shambhala drivers headed for home.

“This is the first year we had not just our patrol units on the exodus of people from Shambhala,” Sgt. John Ferguson of West Kootenay Traffic Services told the Trail Times Thursday.

“We had Cranbrook, our region, Kelowna and Vernon patrols out. The reason being, we are not going to be able to catch everyone, but we are there just to make sure if someone is tired, that they pull over and go to sleep.”

Police also look for drug intoxication that can linger in a person’s system for many hours post use, says Ferguson.

“That’s the other problem,” he added, “some of the drugs take 12 to 15 hours to get out of your body, so we check for that and have them pull over.”

Marijuana, magic mushrooms, hash oil, cocaine, steroids, crystal meth, MDMA, Ketamine and LSD are examples of drugs seized during the Salmo-based event.

A new find this year was “shatter,” which is a highly toxic substance derived from extracting resins from marijuana.

The drug is amber-coloured and looks like peanut brittle or taffy, but police say it is highly addictive with strength that can catch users off guard.

Another new drug was a “Shambhala concoction,” said Ferguson.

“It’s a liquid cocktail mix of a whole bunch of drugs,” he noted.

“There could be anything in there, so we sent it for testing.”

A high ratio of occupants in vehicles stopped over the two days admitted they used illegal substances during the week and weekend of Shambhala. While that simplified the dialogue between police and drivers, Ferguson said what happens inside the ranch is not what the highway police focus on.

“My aim really doesn’t have anything to do with Shambhala,” he explained. “My aim is to make sure when they leave, everyone is safe. If they are not safe, then I need to deal with it.”

Ferguson likens the festival to the high school graduation weekend in June.

“It’s kind of like wet grad when I wake up the Sunday morning after and I go ‘phew,’” he said. “I made it through another one and nothing bad happened. But the law of averages is that eventually something is going to happen.”

This week, police charged three people with driving while impaired with drugs, and one by alcohol. Numerous vehicles were impounded because people were either driving while prohibited or the vehicles were unsafe to be on the road.

By far the most serious problem was aggressive driving, though, both to and from Shambhala.

“They scared us,” he explained. “When you think about it, we impounded 61 cars in seven days that were driving in excess of 40 kilometres an hour over the speed limit. A very high percentage of those were people were going to or coming from Shambhala,” he added. “That’s scary.”

Under the motor vehicle act, Police can impound cars for one week when catching drivers going over the speed limit by 40 km.

“That’s at the owners expense,” said Ferguson. “For instance, there were no cars for rent within 100 km because of Shambhala, and we had someone from Saskatchewan . . . stuck in Castlegar for seven days.”

Other festival-related offences reported by highway patrol and the Nelson Integrated Safety Unit, included 104 drug seizures.

Twenty-three people were charged with possession of a controlled substance, two charged with trafficking, one for proceeds of crime and one woman was arrested and taken into custody for breach of a conditional sentence.

“All charges under the Controlled Substance Act were from people going to and coming from Shambhala,” confirmed Ferguson.