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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Camping Trip: Pot may enhance an outdoor experience, but includes risk

By John Nelson EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Camping and weed would seem to be perfect partners. And they are … but they’re illegal partners in most cases.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped cannabis-loving campers such as myself. The key to using marijuana while camping is to be discreet.

Let’s take a couple of hypotheticals.

Suppose you’re on a backpacking trip in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness and you choose to indulge in marijuana-infused edibles, a federal crime. Should you really worry that a ranger might be lurking behind a tree 25 miles from the trailhead?

Or perhaps you’re staying in an RV at Cougar Rock Campground in Mount Rainier National Park and you fire up a bowl of premium flower. Like the proverbial tree in the woods, if no one else is around and no one can see or smell you, should you assume you’re relatively safe from prosecution?

Yes. Those incidents both happened last summer and the camper in question (it might have been me) got away with it.

But no one should ever dismiss the risk of arrest for marijuana offenses when imbibing on federal lands, where you face a maximum fine of $5,000 if caught. Even though recreational marijuana is legal in Washington and Oregon, it’s a crime to consume it in wilderness areas, national parks and national forests.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that state park campgrounds are any different. Even though smoking cigarettes at your campsite is legal at a state park, Washington and Oregon prohibit the smoking of marijuana in all public places, including campgrounds.

What about smoking inside a tent or an RV at a state park? According to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, that’s still a no-no. You can be cited if caught toking up, even inside your own shelter.

Private campgrounds are a bit more forgiving. Again, it’s illegal to consume marijuana in public places, but you can consume marijuana out of view, say, inside your own RV or tent at a privately-run facility.

Of course, what’s illegal and what will get you cited are two decidedly different things.

Over the last two years, my wife and I have traveled across America in an RV, staying at dozens of campgrounds, both public and private. Most are safe for marijuana consumption as long as you use common sense – and realize that you are risking arrest if caught.

What follows are a list of best practices for imbibing your favorite cannabis product in a beautiful campground setting:

Be discreet. Do not consume cannabis products in front of other campers or park staff members. If no one sees you or smells you, you can’t be arrested.

Don’t be a nuisance. Rangers and law enforcement officials need “probable cause” to search vehicles or personal belongings. By being a model camper – keeping your site clean and the noise-level down – you will offer no probable cause for anyone to give you a second look.

Consider using edibles. It’s easiest to fly under the radar with marijuana-infused candies, drinks and baked goods, which have no odor and draw no attention. For backpacking, many edible products such as chewy and hard candies are ideal because they are lightweight and can’t be crushed.

Weigh your risks. Remember that you could be arrested and fined when you imbibe while camping, whether it’s public or private land. Decide whether the risk of being caught is worth the benefit of being high.

Find a marijuana-friendly park. Consider going to a private resort or campground where public pot use is accepted and embraced.

John Nelson is a longtime journalist, having worked at major news operations in Spokane, Memphis and Seattle. He now works as a freelance journalist, writing about outdoors recreation, marijuana and recreational vehicles.
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