Can You Bring Weed Into a National Park? [We Explain]

Is it a good idea?


There is nothing more relaxing than a long weekend spent camping in a beautiful national park, immersing yourself in nature. For many people, national parks are the perfect place to switch off from the daily grind, and what better way to do so than with a relaxing blunt?

Before you add weed to the top of your packing list, however, it is essential to be aware that laws in national parks might not be as straightforward as you thought. National parks are technically federal land and, given that weed is still illegal under federal law, you might want to consider leaving your pot at home.

Let’s take a look at the laws within national parks and find out whether you can legally bring weed into a national park.

What Exactly Are National Parks?

There is a grand total of 61 national parks across the US, including locations such as Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Canyon. National parks are protected areas of land that are maintained by federal agencies, including the National Park Service.

As national parks are federal land, they have no connection to the state that they are in, both in terms of law and their upkeep.

Federal Law within National Parks?

The National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior are responsible for setting and enforcing regulations and policies within national parks.

The laws within a state are not enforceable within national parks, meaning that the second you enter into a national park, you are under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Federal law still classes marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, the same class of drugs that ecstasy and heroin fall into. This means that even being found in possession of weed is enough to find yourself dealing with probation officers for the foreseeable future, or potentially even jail time.

What Happens if You Are Found in Possession of Weed?

National parks are prominent places, and it is easy to disappear into nature, going hours at a time without seeing another human. In these more isolated areas, your chances of running into a park ranger are pretty slim. Where problems do often occur, however, is when you are staying in campsites or parking in staffed car parks.

Park rangers are responsible for maintaining safety within the park and can approach your car in order to check that you have the right permits and that you are following park rules. It is often in these cases that they find people in possession of or using weed.

If a park ranger does find you to be in possession of weed or any other illegal substance, they are able to treat the case just as any other federal officer would. Since you are on federal land, your state’s laws are not able to protect you in the same way that they usually can.

There have been a number of cases in the last year alone where the government has prosecuted people for smoking weed in Yellowstone National Park. The most likely outcome is that you receive a fine and federal probation. In more severe cases, you could be looking at jail time, as well as a permanent criminal record.

To make matters even worse, federal law officers take the situation seriously and will follow through also once you are safely back under state law. Some cases have seen people being required to attend regular drug tests despite the fact that they are not breaking the law within their home state. This could result in up to six months of having to avoid a completely legal substance in your home state in order to pass federal testing.

Tops Tips While in National Parks

While it might not be legal to smoke weed in national parks, it would be unrealistic to think that this means it does not happen. For many people, a long weekend in a national park is the perfect setting to chill out with a blunt and let nature consume you. There are a few steps that you can take to keep yourself safe while in a national park and hopefully avoid angering park rangers.

If a park ranger asks to search your car or any of your belongings, you are able to say no; if they insist on continuing with the search, they will require a search warrant. This could avoid the government prosecuting you for weed that you happen to have with you, but have no intention of smoking while in the park.

Make sure that you do not have your ID and weed stored in the same place; this could lead to trouble if a park ranger asks to see your ID or any other personal documents.

If you really must use weed while in a national park, stick to more discreet methods; for example, edibles or capsules. Generally, CBD products that do not create a smell or appear visually obvious are going to be much safer to use.

Final Thoughts on Weed and National Parks

Understanding the law when heading into a national park is important and could be the difference between your camping trip being a good memory that you look back on, or the reason that you have a criminal record hanging over your head.