The beauty and majesty that is the North American landscape attracts many people to camp at and visit various national parks. From Yellowstone to Sequoia the American National Park Services attract over 330 million visitors annually. That’s greater than the current population of the United States. That translates to 32 billion in revenue annually, a major source of funding for the federal government. For many camping and cannabis go hand in hand. However, due to bizarre spiderweb that is American law enforcement, you could be locked up for doing so… Even in states where marijuana is legal. It is for this reason that until weed becomes federally legal… it is wise to heed the advice, “don’t smoke weed in national parks”. Let’s examine how this issue came about.
The Legal Status of Cannabis
Currently, 9 states have legalized recreational marijuana and 30 allow the plant for medicinal purposes. The federal government under the Trump administration currently sees things differently. On the federal level Cannabis remains illegal, thus and federally owned land, even if located within a state that has legal weed, is subject to different laws.
In summary, Sintia Kawasaki-Lee, a public affairs officer for Sequoia National Park stated quite bluntly,
Possession and use of marijuana is prohibited by federal law, and as a result is prohibited in national parks
So if cannabis is not legally permitted on national parks, what sort of punishment could you face for toking up?
The most common repercussion for those who give in to the temptation to smoke weed with Yogi Bear… is confiscation of their weed and a fine. A small amount of cannabis will yield a misdemeanor charge and $1000 fine.
In some cases, you might face a brief incarceration as one Hawaii native discovered on a trip to Yellowstone. Gary Godina was pulled over by a park ranger when marijuana was smelled emanating from his car. When asked if he had pot, an ignorant Godina confessed to having three grams in the car, believing there would be no repercussions. Hawaii has legalized cannabis and Gaudina uses the plant to treat his glaucoma.
Much to his surprise, he was taken to a holding cell in Montana where he spent the night. He would later plead guilty and received a $1000 fine.
While the peculiar situation surrounding the national park system might trouble many outdoors enthusiasts… There are grounds for optimism. In recent addresses to the public, President Trump has stated that he supports ending the blanket federal ban on cannabis. This is congruent with his previous statements on the campaign trail in which he said that legalization of weed was a states rights issue. However, surrounded by a cabinet that is vehemently anti-cannabis, skepticism might be the most appropriate response.