It's a tale as old as time.
Man goes into woods. Man ingests mind-altering substances, stares at trees for a while and has his world turned inside out. Man materializes from woods with newfound declarations of inner peace and existential epiphanies.
If a recent NBC investigation is any indication, that familiar plot line has played out all too much in Yosemite recently. According to their report, drug busts in the popular California park skyrocket past other national recreation areas.
Between the years of 2010 and 2012, authorities arrested some 2,393 Yosemite troublemakers for drug possession, or 20 arrests per 100,000 visitors. By comparison, over the same time period, officers nabbed a mere 500 individuals at Yellowstone (five per 100,000 visitors), 365 at the Grand Canyon (three per 100,000 visitors) and 89 at Joshua Tree (two per 100,000 visitors).
And the Yosemite crowd is sticking to a specific cocktail of libations, too. Nobody's getting into trouble for shooting heroin or smoking meth. “It’s been primarily marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and then the party drug- ecstasy,” United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng, whose jurisdiction includes Yosemite Valley, told NBC.
Locals blame the arrest rates not on a higher concentration of drug users, but on a vigilant ranger force specifically seeking out offenders. "It’s really not fair because they target you,” one marijuana smoker said to NBC. “They know that people around here smoke pot."
As SFist notes, Yosemite visitors cited with misdemeanors must pay $275 in fines and court fees. "[That] would certainly be a boon for a cash-strapped national park," the blog posited.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would expand Yosemite's already-massive acreage to incorporate two separate tracts of undeveloped land.
Which means even more space to wander into the woods and emerge enlightened. Just be sure to steer clear of those park rangers on your next journey.