Even in states where it's legal, cannabis laws can be tricky for summer travel

Weed may be legal in Washington, but not on federal lands like Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICES PHOTO
National Park Services photo
Weed may be legal in Washington, but not on federal lands like Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Summer is the season of road trips, camping and outdoor exploration. We are blessed to live in a part of the world that is absolutely loaded with phenomenal summer experiences. We're also blessed to live in a place with legal cannabis.

So, if you're thinking of elevating your summer fun with weed, more power to you! But you should know a few things first.

Even though cannabis is legal here in Washington — as well as in our beautiful, outdoor-loving neighbors Canada and Oregon — it's not as welcome everywhere as your reusable water bottle or tube of sunscreen. For instance, in Idaho. Spokanites flock to the Gem State's shimmering, silver lakes and wild mountain trails during the summer. But those who bring weed with them are violating the law, because weed isn't legal in Idaho.

While it is legal in Washington, it's also not legal in parts of Washington. And even in the parts where it is legal, it might not be legal to consume it.

Let's start with the simplest rule: Everywhere in Washington, it is illegal to consume cannabis in view of the public. That's why you aren't allowed to smoke a joint in a city or state park.

You can't smoke a joint in a national park either, because it's federal land and cannabis remains illegal federally, which means the law is even stricter: You can't so much as possess a joint on federal land. That includes national parks, national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, among others, and the roadways within them.

This is where it gets complicated, but there's no need for paranoia — so long as you know the land you'll be on, and the land you'll be passing through.

Let's say you're driving along State Route 25, which parallels Lake Roosevelt as it runs between Davenport and Canada, and let's say your destination is a cabin, on private land. In your trunk is an unopened, legally purchased gram of marijuana.

That's all well and good, except that State Route 25 weaves in and out of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. In some places it runs for long stretches inside the borders, but at others, it's popping in and back out again after just a matter of feet. While outside the boundary, you're a law-abiding citizen. But while inside the boundary, you're on land controlled by the National Park Service (federal land), which means you can be breaking the law without even knowing it. ♦

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