CANYON CITY, Ore. >> Federal prosecutors and judges are setting up a temporary court in remote eastern Oregon to handle any citations against attendees who break the law at the Rainbow Family of Living Light annual counter-culture gathering that’s expected to attract up to 20,000 campers.
The remote court will be able to handle everything from parking violations to drug offenses to minor assaults that arise at the peace festival in the Malheur National Forest, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported today.
It’s not clear how federal prosecutors will handle marijuana use at the event. Voters in Oregon legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 but it remains illegal under federal law.
Federal prosecutors plan a measured approach at the gathering with the goal of keeping everyone safe. Having a pop-up court in place in Grant County is part of that plan, Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, told OPB. Prosecutors have issued around 30 citations so far, he added.
The county has a population of just 7,500 people and, as of today, about 2,700 early birds had shown up for the event that runs from July 1 to July 7, said Kyle Johnson, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.
Greater numbers of people are expected to arrive this week, with the peak of the event on July 4, when attendees gather for an hours-long group prayer for peace.
The Rainbow Family gathering began in 1972 and occurs each year in a different national forest. Last year, it was held in Vermont.
The group has declined to apply for a permit to gather in Malheur National Forest, as is required for groups of 75 or more, Johnson said. The agency has instead created a guide listing regulations and shared it with the Rainbow Family group while making it clear the agency will enforce its provisions.
Johnson said the Forest Service is concerned about damage to sensitive habitat from having so many people there at once.
“You can’t even calculate what could happen to sensitive cultural sites, species, water resources, invasive plants. All of these are very high concerns for us,” he said.