Cannabis is being slowly decriminalized throughout the west coast of the United States. The new money of the west coast is much more progressive than the old money on the east coast. General attitudes are more accepting of cannabis because of this.
Anyone can google the laws, but I traveled to different cities in each of these states multiple times to see what it’s truly like smoking cannabis in public.
Smoking Weed in California
I attend conventions all over the west coast. This year I was at the LA Convention Center twice – once for E3 (video game expo) and once for CWBC (cannabis expo).
At E3, I was one of very few smokers and noticed vaping was actually more popular than smoking (this isn’t true in Arizona yet). At the CWBC in the same spot, not only were there more smokers, there was plenty of weed going around. I smoked with some very prominent people.
When security finally cracked down was on the last day of the event, because the Emmy’s were coming and they needed to make everything look family friendly for the cameras.
In San Francisco, I was there for the Cannabis Cup and cops were getting a contact high on the outside of the fence barricading the medication area. I didn’t try smoking anywhere else, but I did light up when I got to Weed, CA.
Smoking Pot in Colorado
In Denver, CO, smoking anything in public is frowned upon (and against the law), but the police are generally cool if you’re not being a jerk about it. You can smoke weed in public, but don’t do it near a dispensary. The laws in the cannabis industry are much stricter than they are for the general consumer.
Outside Denver, things are even more relaxed as outdoor tourism is the biggest draw. I sat at a table in front of a McDonald’s in Glenwood Springs (about 30 mins outside Aspen) and lit up a bowl. Not only did nobody care, many people sat and talked to me so I would share some with them (which I gladly did), and I made some new friends.
Smoking Cannabis in Washington
In Seattle, WA, I forgot cannabis had been legalized until I walked by a crowd of kids and smelled it, and a cop was maybe 20 feet away. While in the smoking area at the convention center there for PAX Prime, I was smoked out and given a joint for later by a Microsoft engineer who simply said, “Hey, it’s Seattle,” when I expressed my surprise.
I also visited Vancouver, Yakima, and Kennewick, WA. These smaller towns aren’t as laid back and touristy as the smaller towns in Colorado, but it’s still possible to smoke weed in public without being arrested. In fact, Vancouver practically caters to out-of-towners, as Oregonians frequently cross the border from Portland until it’s legal to sell recreationally in Oregon.
Smoking Marijuana in Oregon
In Eugene, OR, pretty much everyone I met grew pot and it was easy to find. In July 2015, their decriminalization laws finally went into effect, and they were just giving it out everywhere all over Oregon. I sat in on a couple Cannabis Science pubs, which are monthly educational sessions on cannabis held by local companies.
There, I had easy access to speak with the chief of the local police, the head of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and more about how they feel about cannabis. It’s all about being conscious and considerate of your neighbors that matters to them. You’d have to go out of your way to get arrested for pot in Eugene/Springfield, Oregon.
I also went to Portland and smoked in public there, though the police presence was noticeably stronger than Eugene. Not to worry though, as you’re only 10 minutes away from the dispensaries in Washington across the river, and the roads aren’t monitored.
Avoiding Drugs in Utah
In Salt Lake City, UT, I kept my pot smoking confined to my van in the parking lot of the hotel, as I know better than to mess with the Mormons.
Gambling with Vices in Vegas
In Las Vegas, NV, I smoke in public quite often, though it’s casino security you have to worry about more than police. I was at a marijuana business conference at the Rio last November, and security was extremely strict, even at VIP parties sponsored by cannabis companies, where I saw two guys get patted down, have their drugs confiscated, and forced to sign a waiver.
The Gaming Control Board runs Nevada (especially Las Vegas), and no casino wants to get in trouble for breaking the rules. That being said, the city also caters to tourists, so any cannabis card is likely to be accepted by the medical delivery services, which service any casino and hotel in the city.
Everywhere we went on casino grounds, security was following us until we went into the hotel area, where anything goes. I did get a couple security guards high though – they were trolling the conference looking to score some cheap product, and I introduced them to THC concentrate vaping.
Smoking Ganja in Arizona
Arizona is still a dangerous place to smoke weed. I don’t even wear any cannabis-related clothing when I’m home in AZ, because the police can be a bit discriminatory. The high percentage of conservatives, military presence, and border wars makes smoking weed in public a ballsy move.
Brian Penny is a former operations manager and business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, The Street, Fast Company, High Times, and Hardcore Droid.