For Canadians, smoking weed in national parks is already extremely common and mundane. But now, it’s also legal—with a few exceptions. Days ahead of Canada’s historic legalization of marijuana on October 17, 2018, Parks Canada announced a rule change to permit campers to consume cannabis. But since Canada’s provinces can set their own consumption rules, many provincial authorities tweaked the blanket authorization.
With winter fast approaching last October, and parks closing down for the season, the issue wasn’t very urgent. Now that the spring thaw is underway, however, parks officials want to make sure campers know exactly where they can and can’t smoke. And on Wednesday, just days ahead of 4/20, Yukon Parks officials announced they’re treating weed just like liquor. In other words, it’s totally okay to spark up more than your campfire at your Yukon campsite this year.
Yukon Parks Officials Will Treat Weed Just Like Liquor
In the U.S., the ongoing federal prohibition against cannabis creates some interesting legal contradictions. Despite states legalizing adult-use, for example, federal prohibition creates pockets of land where federal law holds and state law doesn’t. And that means places in the U.S. like national parks and forests, wilderness preserves, wildlife refuges and other federally-controlled land are strict no-cannabis zones. North of the U.S. border, it’s a much different story.
There are about 39 National Parks and another eight National Park Reserves in Canada. These parks cover more than 126,000 square miles of the country, or about 3.3 percent of its total area. The park system’s immense size is matched only by its popularity. Between 2016 and 2017, Parks Canada says nearly 15.5 million people visited the country’s national parks and reserves.
Just before legalization went into effect last October, Parks Canada officially announced that marijuana consumption was permissible. The authorization gave the green light to cannabis consumption at registered campsites and on hiking trails. The only restrictions were against consuming cannabis in shared public use spaces. So no weed smoking in picnic areas, playgrounds, shelters, etc., with the idea being to limit underage exposure to cannabis.
Yukon Territory Parks Open May 10
Yukon Territory’s Department of Environment said Wednesday that campers can smoke cannabis on their individual campsites. “We’re following the same approach as we do to liquor,” director of Yukon Parks Mike Etches said.
That approach involves prohibiting liquor and cannabis consumption in any public areas in the Yukon’s 42 campgrounds. Similarly, officials will handle complaints about cannabis consumption the same way they do liquor complaints. If parks staff receive complaints about excessive noise, underage cannabis consumption or use in prohibited areas, they will intervene.
But other than that, campers are free to smoke weed as much as they like. The Yukon’s approach resembles the rules of other parks agencies, like in British Columbia. It’s different, though, than policies set up in some Alberta parks. At Lake Louise, for example, officials have decided to allow cannabis consumption in public areas.
If keeping track of all these different rules sounds tricky, rest assured parks will have signage about marijuana and campers can look up the rules online.