Marijuana is recreationally legal in 23 states – including some of the best hiking areas – but what about National Parks?
Summer time and people are hitting the trails to hike and savor the sun. Over 57 million folks with head outdoors, with about 55% being male and 45% being female, ready to explore the great outdoors. Colorado, Washington, Canada, Maine and more all have bucolic views for the activity – and it is legal to consume in the state – but what about US National Parks.
You don’t have to worry about Canada because it is federally legal, but it the US, it is a bit more murky. National Parks are on federal land, and marijuana is still federally illegal. And while they sit in fully legal states, the park rangers are federal employees.
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No matter the state where you live, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug, meaning that if you’re caught with it in a national park, you’re still breaking the law. Until the President or the Secretary of the Interior releases a form of the Cole Memo, Park Rangers can make it rough.
“In regards to hiking in National Parks, Biden’s pardon is backward facing. It has no impact on offenses occurring after Biden’s proclamation from October 2022. That means that individuals who have previously been convicted of non-violent offenses for simple marijuana possession qualify for a pardon. The pardon, as the name indicates, is a measure of forgiveness for previous acts but does not impact any acts after the pardon. The pardon did not change federal law, so it remains illegal to consume marijuana in the USA, even in states that have legalized. The risk of prosecution under federal law for simply consuming marijuana in a state where it is legal is low at this point. That risk increases if consumption occurs in a federally owned land, such as a national park. It remains illegal and inadvisable to consume marijuana on federal lands.” Stated marijuana lead attorney Daniel Shortt, from Green Light Law Group.
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Andrew Cooper, from Falcon Papparport & Berkman LLP and a leading attorney in the marijuana industry shared “The fact that Biden has suggested that he would pardon any federal prisoners convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis doesn’t mean that the federal park police will not make the arrest. It doesn’t even mean that the U.S. Attorney in the district in which the national park is located (who is given deference) won’t prosecute the offense. It just means that if you are arrested and convicted that Biden will/may/might, at some point in time, possibly pardon you … maybe. Unless you also work in the White House, and then you will definitely be fired.”
So, if you are going to a national park and want to consume, be safe, don’t overdue and be discreet. Also, remember, not everyone enjoys the smell of weed so be considerate of others and smoke in an area that’s secluded and private.