Federally-Funded Study Suggests Ultra Music Festival Is a Drug Haven

By McCarton Ackerman 03/05/15

One of the biggest music festivals in the country is also one of the biggest havens for drugs.

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The Ultra Music Festival in Miami has been one of the biggest music events in the country for the last 16 years, but a new federally-funded study has confirmed its reputation as a drug haven.

Researchers from the Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE) compiled data from 145 attendees at the festival last year for the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice. One-hundred of the volunteer participants also agreed to give a blood or urine sample. Nearly 72% of the participants admitted to using marijuana, cocaine, Molly, or ecstasy in the past week, while 58% of the blood samples and 80% of the urine samples came back positive for one or more of these drugs.

The findings were enough for Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado to declare that the city should end its relationship with the festival, despite clearing $20 million in ticket sales alone last year. Regalado believes that no amount of money is worth the tragic events that took place at last year’s festival, including a drug overdose death and a security guard being trampled by gate crashers.

“It proved my point that the festival should not be in downtown Miami or in the city of Miami,” he said. “The numbers are very concerning.”

But Barry Logan, executive director of the CFSRE, has gone on record stating that the sample pool for the study is far too small to be an “indicator of prevalence.”

The Ultra Music Festival has also restated their zero-tolerance drug policy and hired former Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez last year in an effort to stamp out illegal activity. Amnesty boxes have also been placed outside of the festival so that users can dispose of illegal drugs, no questions asked.

“The safety and security of our attendees, artists/performers, and personnel remain our utmost priority and concern,” wrote Martinez in a statement. “The organizers of Ultra Music Festival have a long-standing zero tolerance drug policy and continually work with law enforcement officials to enforce such policy.”

The most recent music festival death took place at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, when 21-year-old Jessica Hunter took a fatal overdose of Molly and died on Oct. 8, three days after she was transported to a local hospital.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.