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Beach Bud: The Best Beaches to Enjoy Marijuana (Legally) in the U.S.

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There’s nothing like a trip on the beach (pun intended.) The sheer relaxation that comes from taking in the majesty of nature, the cool breeze and the sound of the ocean is therapeutic in itself, and paired with a buzz, the experience can feel like a lucid dream (the fun kind, not the “Inception” kind.)

But many forget that it’s actually illegal to light up a joint on all beaches in the United States. In every coastal state where cannabis is legal, laws are currently set in place to prevent residents from smoking on beaches and polluting the air quality of the oceanfront. Edibles? We’ll get to that. You also can’t consume cannabis while operating a car in any U.S. state, so pulling over to roll a joint on the way over isn’t a (legal) option.

So if you want to be high at the beach, you’ll have to be a little creative. Don’t worry, we’ve done the grunt work for you. 

Here’s how to have a dope (and law-abiding) beach vacation in coastal states where recreational marijuana is legal.

California

It’s not as simple to get high on the beach in this canna-friendly state as you’d think. Consuming cannabis of any form in public is still illegal in California, so finding safe ways to get high in nature is no picnic. This law includes public spaces like state parks where you are outdoors, but can easily find yourself completely alone.

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However, there are two beaches in the state where it’s easy to get high before heading to the beach: Long Beach and Newport Beach. 

Located just south of Los Angeles, these California beaches offer something you won’t find in many other beach towns: cannabis lounges. Much like bars, lounges offer a safe, legal place to consume and purchase cannabis with friends. Cannabis lounges haven’t come to Oregon or Washington yet, and there are still very few in California, so you’ll be experiencing a new frontier in the West Coast cannabis industry. The ones in Long Beach and Newport Beach are just a short distance from the ocean, so it’s easy to catch an Uber or walk to the coast when you’re ready for sun and sand. 

You might also consider a bud-friendly private rental house if you can find one with a balcony overlooking the waves.

New Jersey

If you’re trying to get high on the Jersey shore, you’re in luck. As the law stands now, you can consume cannabis on some beaches in New Jersey.  You just can’t smoke it.

Smoking and vaping cannabis in public was made illegal as part of New Jersey’s cannabis laws, but the state has not put a ban in place against consuming edibles in public spaces, according to a statement DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel for Marijuana Policy Project, provided to the Philadelphia Inquirer

While most Shore towns seem to be O.K. with this so far, others are already making their own laws specifically banning all cannabis products, so be sure to check what laws apply to the exact beach you plan to visit.

RELATED: Thinking of Opening a Dispensary? These U.S. States Levy the Lowest Taxes on Recreational Cannabis

But here’s the rub: Recreational marijuana is not yet available for purchase in New Jersey. State officials are still writing regulations for the program, and cannabis retail licenses have yet to be distributed. The latest predictions are saying we might not see dispensaries in the Garden State until 2022. 

New York

New York is pioneering a new trend in cannabis law by allowing consumers to smoke cannabis anywhere smoking tobacco is legal. It is the only U.S. state to allow the public smoking of marijuana at this time.

RELATED: Is Cannabis Legal in Mexico? Here’s What You Need to Know (Summer 2021 Update)

Still, because of the smoking ban on state parks and beaches in the state of New York, you can’t smoke cannabis on New York beaches. You also shouldn’t bring edibles with you, since the law (though less clear) seems to imply that the consumption of cannabis in all forms is banned in places where smoking tobacco is illegal. 

This does, however, make it much easier to get high before you get on the beach. Take a few hits in a tobacco-friendly zone before stepping onto the boardwalk and a Coney Island Hot Dog will taste better than it ever has before.

Virginia 

Though marijuana has only been legal since July 1st, 2021 in the state of Virginia, recreational sales have already begun, meaning the Mid-Atlantic just got a whole lot more lit.

Like California, Virginia has not legalized the consumption of cannabis in public spaces. That being said, there are already cannabis lounges in the state, and one of them is in Virginia Beach, the most popular beach town in the state.

If you’re looking to take a trip down south a little higher, Virginia Beach may be your next destination.

Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to elli.esher@hearst.com.