Over the upcoming week, as many as 20,000 people will attend the Rainbow Family peace gathering in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. The gathering has been held every year since 1972, and is held at a different national forest every year. This year, the group did not apply for a permit to hold the gathering on federal land. In response, government officials have created a “pop up” court to deal with those who are arrested during the event.
U.S. Forest Service spokesman Kyle Johnson said that around 2,700 people have already showed up to the event, but attendance is expected to peak around July 4th, when a group prayer for peace will be held. Johnson said that the Forest Service is concerned about how the large number of people may damage the sensitive forest habitat. “You can’t even calculate what could happen to sensitive cultural sites, species, water resources, invasive plants,” he said. “All of these are very high concerns for us.”
So far, eight people have been arrested, 50 people have received violation notices, and 200 people have received official warnings. To deal with arrests, assistant U.S. attorneys have set up a makeshift office near the gathering location. A federal magistrate will be available to hear cases via a remote camera on July 6th, according to Kevin Sonoff, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office.
Although cannabis consumption has been legal in Oregon since 2014, the gathering is being held on federal land. Because marijuana is still federally prohibited, attendees of the gathering may find themselves at risk of federal drug prosecution if they choose to smoke up. Sonoff declined to reveal how prosecutors will handle cannabis use at the event, other than to mention that law enforcement will take a “measured approach.”