Across these United States of America, we have a great National Park System that has almost 420 areas covering more than 84 million acres. The National Park System is in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. In the National Park System, 59 are specially designated national parks like, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park. California has the most with nine National Parks, followed by Alaska’s eight, Utah has five, and Colorado has four of those specially designated national parks. Several of these states are now also legalized cannabis states for either medical or adult use.
Despite President Barack Obama’s declaration that it wasn’t a priority to go after people who were following their state’s marijuana law, some park rangers are busy busting people in California since the passage of Prop 64. The federal government says it’s not backing off on citing people who are caught with marijuana in California’s national parks, monuments, recreational areas and other federal lands regardless of the landslide vote that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
“Marijuana – recreational, medical or otherwise – remains prohibited on federal public lands and property, regardless of state laws,” said Andrew Munoz to the Sacramento Bee, a Pacific West spokesman for the National Park Service. “So there is no change: We will continue to enforce marijuana prohibition as before.”
This unpleasant surprise for people can easily happen as a lot of people don’t recognize that when you travel into the national park system, it’s is like you’ve gone into another state – a completely different jurisdiction. And unlike state parks that follow state laws, a national park in your state will enforce Federal Laws.
The level of federal enforcement appears to depend on the state. Few people seem to get busted anymore for taking joints into Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, a state that legalized marijuana in 2012, said Brian Vicente, partner at a national Denver-based law firm that specializes in marijuana issues.
Routine traffic stops or those seeking information from a park ranger have led to park rangers finding a few grams or joints of marijuana inside visiting vehicles, the standard punishment of which is a $1,000 fine. At least 146 people were cited in Washington state for having pot on federal land over seven months immediately following that state’s vote to legalize in 2012, the Seattle Times reported. As The Denver Post notes, getting caught with marijuana at a national park, national forest, or national monument has a maximum punishment of a $5,000 fine—or six months in jail.
The most marijuana citations in California’s parks are issued at Yosemite, which is the state’s most visited national park and has a long history of more cannabis related-busts than any other national park in the United States. Park rangers can also let marijuana slide with just a warning, as some of them seem to forget this kind avenue. If you are confronted by a park ranger or police officer; remain calm, be courteous and provide your identification. Knowing your rights is important and NORML has great information about your rights and what to do during law enforcement encounters. There is even a Freedom Card that can be printed out and kept with you.
Coming up in Washington DC, on national park property, organizers have planned several events and First Amendment style protests ahead of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20th 2017. A National Park Service list of First Amendment permit applications, showing they will be allowing a large pro-marijuana demonstration. The pro-marijuana legalization group plans to hand out 4,200 free joints during the inaugural march to the National Mall. DCMJ, the group planning the event, says the free cannabis is meant to raise awareness about the benefits of legalization.
“At 4 minutes and 20 seconds into President Trump’s speech we’ll light up! (unless President Trump comes out now in support of full cannabis legalization in all 50 states and DC!)” DCMJ said in a release.