Marijuana remains illegal on federal lands, despite state law changes in Colo. and Wash.


Sheep Lakes at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colo.

Marijuana possession (of limited amounts) might be legal in Washington and Colorado, but considering the federal government owns massive chunks of land in both states you aren’t always legally carrying ganja depending on where you are – namely national land.
According to a study conducted by the Associated Press, more than 27,700 people have been cited for marijuana possession on federal lands in the last four years. While the number is sizable in terms of drug arrests, officials say it is a paltry figure compared to the hundreds of millions of visitors to national parks, forests and monuments.

Basically, even if you’re in a state that has allowed for cannabis use and possession, federal lands are still federal lands and marijuana is a federally illegal drug. In Washington, nearly one-third of the state is owned by the federal government.
It’s one of the main issues brought up by the justice department two weeks ago in a memo saying that recreational sales would be tolerated so long as marijuana doesn’t end up in the hands of kids or finds its way into national parks and forests, among other stipulations.
In fact, it’s not really an area of concert at the state level in Washington or Colorado currently. “It’s not one of the big topics we’ve talked a lot about,” Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, told the New York Daily News.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana on federal property is a misdemeanor, with up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. People don’t often do the jail time and the cases are usually argued down in court to lesser charges similar to a traffic ticket with a few hundred dollars in fines.
So far this year, 146 people have been cited marijuana possession on federal lands in Washington. In 2012, a total of 5,772 people were cited for marijuana possession on federal lands such as beaches, forests, military bases and monuments. According to the AP, there were even ten tickets issued at the Pentagon in 2012.
And don’t think that ignorance of the law or where you were when you were busted is going to protect you. As 36-year-old Washington resident Karen Strand found out after she was busted with two grams of herb after a ranger pulled her over for a broken taillight. She said the laws were confusing and her husband said he thought “it was just legal now”.
But the federal judge was hearing none of it and refused to dismiss the charges.
So remember, when you’re going into National Forests or any federal property, leave your pot behind in your car or home that it situated nicely on state lands.