WASHINGTON – Think pot is now legal in California? Try telling that to the National Park Service rangers ready to bust people caught with marijuana in Yosemite, Redwood, Death Valley and other federal lands across the state.
The federal government said it’s not backing off on citing people who are caught with marijuana in California’s national parks, monuments, recreational areas and other federal lands regardless of the vote that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
“Marijuana — recreational, medical or otherwise — remains prohibited on federal public lands and property, regardless of state laws,” said Andrew Munoz of the National Park Service. “So there is no change: We will continue to enforce marijuana prohibition as before.”
That’s going to come as an unpleasant surprise to people, said Mike Mitchell, a Fresno defense attorney who has represented people busted for pot in Yosemite. “I’d anticipate more people thinking now that it is legal in the park,” Mitchell said. “A lot of people don’t recognize that you are going into a completely different jurisdiction; it’s just like going into a different state.”
It’s been an issue in states that had legalized marijuana previously, where people are being cited for weed possession on federal land despite President Obama’s declaration that it wasn’t a priority to go after people who were following their states’ pot laws.
President-elect Donald Trump has shown no inclination to change course, appointing staunch anti-marijuana Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as attorney general.
The level of federal enforcement appears to depend on the state. The most marijuana citations in California’s parks are issued at Yosemite, which is the state’s most visited national park and has a history of more pot busts than any other U.S. national park.