Officials Issue Reminder That Cannabis is Forbidden in Michigan’s National Forests

As in other weed-legal states, federal prohibition applies on federal lands like national forests.
Officials Issue Reminder That Cannabis is Forbidden in Michigan's National Forests

Spring has finally sprung, and after a long winter people are pouring out of their homes to enjoy the long-awaited return of warm weather. For residents of Michigan, there are plenty of ecological treasures to explore, from prairies to coastal marshlands, dunes to bogs. And now that weed is legal in Michigan, venturing into the great outdoors is a perfect occasion for communing with nature with some cannabis. Unfortunately, some of the most popular spots in Michigan aren’t marijuana-friendly, and park officials are reminding everyone that federal prohibition still stands in the state’s National Forests.

On Federal Land, Prohibition Supersedes Legalization

In the 2018 midterm elections, Michigan voters legalized cannabis at the ballot box, passing Ballot Proposal 18-1 and establishing the “Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act”. But as in other weed-legal states, that law doesn’t apply on land controlled by the federal government. Land like national forests, national parks, wilderness preserves and wildlife refuges all fall under federal jurisdiction.

So since the federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance on par with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, bringing it with you into a national forest violates the law.

Do people smoke weed on hiking trails and at their campsites? Of course. All the time. But Michigan parks and forest officials want to make sure visitors know that the state’s new legal marijuana law won’t protect them.

In a news release Thursday, the Forest Service reminded people that the MRTMA does not supersede federal regulations and that possessing, using, cultivating or selling cannabis is a punishable offense. “Marijuana users are asked to be mindful of National Forest System boundaries and to become familiar with relevant federal and state regulations prior to visiting,” the release said. If you plan to visit Huron-Manistee National Forest, Hiawatha National Forest, or Ottawa National Forest, be sure to keep that in mind.

Can You Smoke Weed in Michigan’s National Forest? No. Could You? Yes.

No reason to be naive about it: people break the law to consume cannabis all the time. That’s why prohibition is such a failure. So if like thousands of hikers, campers, and other outdoor aficionados you decide to partake when visiting Michigan’s National Forests, you’re not likely to face much trouble for your transgressions. Just be aware that you could.

And also make sure you’re doing your part to prevent forest fires, Smokey. According to Kathy Komatz, National Structural Fire Training Specialist for the National Park Service, you should soak any finished joints and weed ash in water before you throw them in a trash can. And make sure that can is unburnable and unmeltable and filled with sand. Never ash a bowl or toss a joint on the ground.

Now whether you can consume cannabis in public is still kind of hazy in Michigan. According to Michigan State Police, public cannabis consumption rules follow the same rules for alcohol consumption. So no shared public places. But that means you could probably get away with consuming cannabis at an individual campground, or on a hike in one of Michigan’s state parks and forests.

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