Reminder: Pot Is Illegal on Beaches, Military Bases, and Other Federal Land

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Yes, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington already legalized recreational marijuana use. Yes, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts joined them this year. And yes, the general trend is that states are relaxing their pot prohibitions.

But no, the federal government has not decriminalized cannabis. So yes, you can still get busted for pot possession on federal land, even if you're in a legalized state.

State Your Case

As State House News Service so helpfully points out, weed in the newly legalized state of Massachusetts remains illegal at places like "Hanscom Air Force Base, aboard the Acela or at Race Point Beach on the tip of Cape Cod." And the feds are allegedly doling out harsher punishments for pot possession than state prosecutors were previously.

"You don't necessarily want to ruin that person's future on a one-time relatively minor first-time offense," said Peter Elikann, a criminal defense attorney and former chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section. "You don't want to ruin their future forever with a conviction that will come back to haunt them the rest of their life."

Fed Up

Those travelling to nearby states should also remember that crossing state lines with cannabis isn't legally kosher, especially if you're flying or riding the rails. Amtrak recently released a statement on the matter:

"Due in part to Amtrak's duty as an intercity rail system operator to follow federal law and federal oversight regulation, Amtrak views marijuana use and possession on Amtrak property as an illegal act in violation of federal law. Thus, marijuana use and possession, including medical marijuana, is still, and will remain, prohibited on Amtrak property, including trains."

It's also a good reminder to residents of all pot-friendly states that marijuana is still illegal in any national park or wilderness area, and that the U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the high seas -- so sparking up a J on your sloop John B may still get you a visit from the DEA.

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