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There are Surprisingly Few Places to Smoke in Weed-Legal States

Maureen Meehan

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There are Surprisingly Few Places to Smoke in Weed-Legal States

With recreational weed legal in eight states and the District of Columbia and medical marijuana legal in twenty-nine more states, there are still surprisingly few places to smoke in weed-legal states. At least if you want to do it comfortably and legally. We know college campuses are out. How about a nice relaxing city park? Sorry, they’re out too. With public weed-smoking officially banned almost everywhere, several major cities that are now enjoying huge economic benefits from legal pot—like Denver, Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas—are struggling with the issue of toking in public places.

No Smoking in Public

Let’s take Washington state as an example. There, the law protects cannabis consumption in private residences but nixes all public toking. Seattle’s city webpage states: “Marijuana cannot be consumed in public view, such as on streets or sidewalks or in public parks.”

Additionally, Washington has a “Smoking in Public Places” law that bans smoking of any kind in public places and on the job. This ultimately criminalizes public marijuana use. Just about all of the above goes for Portland as well. There, you can legally buy, share, trade, and transport weed, but no smoking in public.

Recently, a man was gently escorted from the visitors’ gallery of a Portland courtroom during a murder trial when he lit up a joint and started puffing. He said he didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to smoke in public places.

Smoking in public parks is also illegal in Boston, under the city’s Clean Air Bill. Passed in 2013, this bill criminalized “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other lighted or vaporized substance in any manner or form including marijuana used for medical or any other purposes.”

That didn’t go down too well with the organizers and attendees of the Boston Freedom Rally, where earlier this month there was plenty of public puffing and thankfully no crackdown.

Washington, D.C., however, is another kettle of fish, being the nation’s capital and all. According to the Washington Post, enforcement of marijuana laws led to a spike in arrests in 2016, with more than 400 people nabbed for public consumption. That’s up from 142 people in 2015 when weed became legal in the District. Arrests are expected to remain high this year, as well.

Nevada is one of the more complicated places when it comes to laws about public weed-smoking. A lot of this confusion stems from the fact that cities like Las Vegas are huge tourists destinations, and many visitors would love to mix it all up with booze, bud and betting.

Shortly after Nevada legalized cannabis, the Reno cops issued an FAQ guide for locals and visitors. This guide basically says no public smoking anywhere unless you want to run the risk of getting a $600 fine. All in all, these restrictions can make it challenging to find places to smoke in weed-legal states.

Surprisingly Few Places to Smoke in Weed-Legal States

There are Surprisingly Few Places to Smoke in Weed-Legal States

More recently, cities like Las Vegas have nixed the idea of smoking lounges until someone else, like Denver, tries it first. But don’t hold the smoke in while you wait for that to happen. Denver doesn’t allow smoking in parks, much less lounges.

So that means that, for now, it is up to San Francisco to lead the way. This past spring the city issued an official “yes” to toking in public at the 420 celebration in Haight Ashbury. “The city issued a permit to a handful of Haight Street merchants and local cannabis businesses to oversee the event,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

So what does all this mean for weed smokers? Practice discretion and try not to get caught doing something illegal—even when you’re in a weed-legal state.

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