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Message: If you bring drugs to sell at Bonnaroo, the annual outdoor music festival that opens its gates Thursday in Manchester, your stay in Middle Tennessee may be longer than you planned.
As the fourth edition of the wildly popular event prepares to welcome a crowd of 90,000-plus, authorities hope to pinch the funnel of illegal drugs entering the 700-acre pasture-cum-music venue where two attendees died from drug overdoses at last year's festival.
While marijuana and other drugs will still "be on our radar screen," Graves said, officers will particularly be looking for quantities of "hard drugs" such as cocaine, methamphetamine, psychedelic mushrooms, prescription painkillers, heroin and LSD.
At Bonnaroo III last June, authorities arrested 27 people and cited 132 others for offenses, nearly all of them drug-related. Those arrested were taken directly to jail, while those who were cited were told to return for court and sent on their way without their illegal stashes.
"We'll make more arrests than that this time. This year we're going to try and identify the major suppliers of the drugs to see if we can get these dealers out of Bonnaroo,'' said the sheriff.
If there are fewer drug sellers, there won't be as many drugs available for sale inside the gates, he surmised.
This week, Roonies should expect a more thorough car search and, maybe, the cold nose of a drug-sniffing dog as they enter tollbooths where attendees exchange their tickets for wristbands.
"Two drug dogs will be in use, and our officers will be there,'' Graves noted.
The extra scrutiny sounds good to Coffee County Mayor Ray Johnson.
"Last year's deaths was not a happy sight. We don't want that to happen again. They said they would do more checking at the gate for drugs than they had in the past. They have assured us that they would try to do a better job,'' Johnson said.
Inside Bonnaroo's perimeter, a security team will be assigned to drug enforcement, according to Rick Farman, spokesman for the music festival.
"We've set up a team with our security director that is really going to be focused on making sure that the rules are enforced and that there's a presence out there making sure people know that you've got to follow the rules here when you come to Bonnaroo,'' Farman said.
This team, he added, consists mostly of off-duty law enforcement personnel.
"They know how, in an appropriate and safe way, to deal with the confiscation of illegal substances and things like that,'' Farman said.
Last year, a 22-year-old woman from Kentucky and a 20-year-old man from Michigan collapsed and died from what Nashville-based forensic pathologist Bruce Levy termed "acute combined drug toxicity."
Numerous friends of the two individuals who died were critical of slow response times by emergency medical workers at the sprawling venue. Farman said Bonnaroo has re-evaluated its medical procedures.
"We've expanded our medical presence at the campground. Each pod will have a medical tent, manned by at least one emergency medical technician, in each of the 12 camping pods,'' Farman said.
Each camping pod, temporary home to about 7,000 attendees, will also have an assigned "Bonnaroo Ambassador," whose job will be to greet each vehicle as it arrives and point out the location of the medical tent, portable toilets and water station.
Another new public safety feature is a venue-wide public address system. From security towers scattered over the campground, attendees will be alerted to weather warnings and general messages."