Campers, hikers, and the 420-friendly have always had a lot of crossover, so it can seem natural enough to went to enjoy a good spliff while beholding the splendor of say, Yellowstone. But getting blazed while on a trail can have some unexpectedly dire consequences.
A lot of that springs from the fact that national parks are overseen by the federal government, and the feds give no leeway for using cannabis, even if you’re in a state with legal medical or recreational cannabis. In many national parks, getting busted by the park rangers will result in a simple fine of a couple of hundred dollars, but according to one criminal defense attorney a bust can also have some surprisingly severe repercussions.
Attorney Alex Freeburg represents people accused of using and possessing marijuana in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. He recently told Leafly that he’s already had six such cases in 2018, and he hasn’t even gotten to summer yet, which is usually boom time for such charges.
Freeburg says that a possession charge in Yellowstone can cost you $795 if convicted. But it actually gets worse from there because you’re dealing with the federal courts.
“The feds have way more resources than the states do,” he said. “In my experience—in Wyoming—on a first defense pot charge, you can get on probation. If they’re not from Wyoming no big deal, they go back to their home state and there’s no Wyoming probation officer, you know, to check up on you in California. But with the feds, there is.”
You can get up to six months probation in such cases, according to the attorney, but he also knows of at least one case in which the penalty was absurdly severe. One client from Georgia pleaded guilty to possession of less than a gram of cannabis, and was given probabtion with the stipulation that he had to move into a group home. “This is the only time I ever heard of this,” he said. “ He left the halfway house and got six months in jail—which is the max you can get. So, in the end, the way you can get jail time on these charges is if you violate probation. It’s an extreme story, but it has happened.”
Freeburg also left us with these words of wisdom for using caution when getting stoned on national park land:
- Using vape pens or edibles is a little less of a hassle as there’s virtually no smell from it to attract unwanted attention.
- Don’t keep your weed goods in the glove box, which you might have to open if they demand to see a license and registration.
- Don’t share responsibility. Everyone will get charged the same. Somebody should lie down on the grenade.
- Don’t agree to probation unless you really are going to stop using.
Photo via Flickr user Eric Vaughn