For Burning Man, 5 Legal Facts You May Not Know

By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 22, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Burning Man is almost upon us, and eager Burners may not know a few very important legal facts about partying on the Playa.

For many, Burning Man is a symbol of freedom from authoritarian rule, social restrictions on dress, and inhibitions regarding drug use. But while it may feel like a pocket universe, it's actually still in Nevada... in the United States. And it's still subject to many laws.

So don't be a legal sparkle pony, know these five Burning Man legal facts before you hit the Playa:

1. The Playa Is Federal Land.

Even though the Playa seems otherworldly at times, it's actually federally protected land. The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act of 2000 designated the Black Rock Desert, including the Playa, as a federal conservation area which is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The law specifically includes dispensation for permitting "large-scale events in defined, low impact areas of the Black Rock Desert playa," but the area is subject to federal laws and regulations.

2. No Pot Allowed, Even With a Medical Card.

This may be an interesting year for illicit drugs at Burning Man, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even with a state-issued medical marijuana permit. Even though just two states away in Colorado and Washington, they're literally selling marijuana to anyone over 21, there are technically no state or federal protections for you to get blazed at Burning Man. Enforcement of these laws, however, may be quite lax.

3. You Can Get a DUI in Your Art Car.

You may be really proud of your Burning Man art car this year, but don't try driving it unless you're sober. Nevada DUI laws still technically apply to driving around the Playa after drinking or consuming any other intoxicating substance. Federal regulations also require your art car to have head and tail lights when driven at night.

4. Community Mediators Are Available.

When you have a conflict to resolve at Burning Man, it isn't total anarchy. The Black Rock Rangers provide many police-type community functions (finding lost children, providing information, and responding to emergencies) while also facilitating mediation and conflict resolution on the Playa.

5. No Peeing in Public, Not Even on the Playa.

Yes there is a "p" in Playa, but public urination and defecation on this federally protected land (like most places) is illegal. There are porta-potties provided for all Burners, and supposedly they're serviced regularly.

Have a safe, legal time at Burning Man this year!

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