If you live in a state where cannbis is legal and want to take a long weekend surrounded by nature, it only makes sense to bring your stash along for the ride. Consuming cannabis in the great outdoors is scientifically proven to ease anxiety for some people, and in today’s world, we could all use a carefree moment.
If you’re thinking of heading to a national park, however, you might (and should) have some questions. National parks abide by federal law, not state law. So, if a national park is located in a state where cannabis has been legalized, is weed legal in the park?
The short answer is no. But to give you a full picture of cannabis legality in national parks, and maybe give you some ideas for more 420-friendly outdoor excursions, we dug a little deeper.
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A brief history of state marijuana legalization
In the United States, marijuana is legal for recreational use in 19 states. It is legal for medicinal purposes in 37 states. You can read the full list here.
States that legalized medical marijuana include, but are not limited to, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
Many have touted marijuana for its health benefits like pain relief, stress management, and anxiety relief long before any state legalized it. It was first legalized in 1996 in California for medicinal use. It was first legalized for recreational use in Colorado in 2012.
Since then, many national park visitors have assumed that if it is legal in the state, it must also be permitted in the national park. But this is not the case.
Federal cannabis law
Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug. This means that the federal government considers marijuana to have a high potential for abuse.
Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
So, even though marijuana is legal in some states, it is still illegal under federal law.
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Is cannabis legal in national parks?
Cannabis containing more then 0.3 percent THC is considered illegal in national parks, regardless of what the laws are in the state the park is located. This confuses many residents and tourists, but the reason is actually pretty simple: national parks abide by federal law. So, if you are standing in a national park, you are standing on government ground, not state ground.
If national park visitors are found with cannabis on park grounds, they could face serious penalties.
What about park laws?
On top of abiding by federal law, national parks in the United States are subject to their own separate regulations. These laws and regulations help protect the parkland, wildlife, and visitors.
Some of the rules that national park visitors must follow include:
- You are not allowed to hunt
- You may not feed wildlife
- You must remove all trash and litter
- You are not permitted to damage any plant life
So if the government legalized cannabis tomorrow, cannabis use would not be legal in national parks by default. National parks have their own rules and regulations, and may not desire cannabis consumption on their grounds. Cannabis use might continue to be prohibited by national parks for conservation reasons.
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What happens if you are caught with cannabis in a national park?
People caught with cannabis in a national park could face severe penalties, since they are committing a federal crime. These penalties vary by case, but can include fines and jail time.
Following the rules is the best way to enjoy your national park experience.
There are other ways to enjoy nature with weed
You don’t need to visit a national park to enjoy nature while high. Most states have laws about smoking cannabis in public, but in many states, there’s nothing to stop you from consuming an edible in parks and beaches owned by the state. Or, light up in your car before a long hike on a state-owned trail.
Thoroughly research the laws in your state around public cannabis consumption and let the cannatourism begin!