A viewer email a few weeks ago alerted us that sometimes, people get tickets for using marijuana on federal lands in Colorado.
This makes sense – as marijuana is still illegal to possess, sell, consume or cultivate at the federal level – despite state law.
So we asked a couple of federal agencies how often people really do get into trouble for having even small amounts of marijuana on federal lands, like in national parks. For this, we asked the Bureau of Land Management – which oversees 8.3 million acres of federal lands in Colorado and asked the National Parks Service, which manages Rocky Mountain National Park, about how often law enforcement officers for each agency have ticketed people for having or using marijuana.
Neither agency was able to provide exact statistics, based on their internal data-keeping. Instead, their records show reported drug incidents – but both agencies said the majority of these incidents were related to marijuana.
Both agencies provided the number of drug incidents, including citations, warnings and arrests from 2014-2016.
Here’s what BLM sent:
In 2014, BLM enforcement officers wrote 28 “citation notices” or tickets and 38 warnings. In 2015, the records recorded 27 citations and 22 warnings, and in 2016, law enforcement working for BLM wrote 23 citations and gave 26 warnings for drug use.
The Bureau of Land Management says their tickets carry a hefty price tag.
There’s a $250 collateral fine for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana, according to BLM spokesperson Steven Hall.
The National Parks Service works a little differently.
According to their data, there were just 7 drug violations in 2014 – including 5 tickets and two arrests in 2014. In 2015, there was one criminal complaint and one citation. That number jumped to 47 total incidents in 2016, including 29 warnings given out at Rocky Mountain National Park.
The National Parks Service says the fine may fluctuate depending on the enforcement action and severity of the reported crime.
Altogether, the number of citations seemed a little low – especially when compared to the number of tickets for using marijuana in Denver.
Last year alone, Denver police wrote 590 citations for public consumption/unlawful public display of marijuana – and that’s just one category of tickets Denver police may issue regarding cannabis!
Which all goes to say – even though the drug is legal in Colorado – there are still restrictions in all public places, whether those are patrolled by park rangers or by local police.