2014 saw an increase in prosecution for marijuana possession in Yellowstone National Park.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 80 cases were processed as of December 17, 2014. In 2013, there were only 52 cases. In 2010, there were only 21.
The penalty for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Yellowstone usually comes out to a $1000 fine.
There is no indication whether Colorado visitors brought in the cases, where marijuana was recently legalized for recreational use, or whether they were brought in from states (such as Montana) where medical marijuana is available. From The Missoulian:
Tim Reid, the chief ranger, said he believes the increase mirrors the prevalence of pot in society.
Alex Freeburg, a criminal defense lawyer in Jackson, Wyoming, frequently handles marijuana possession cases from Yellowstone. He said his clients often are surprised when they’re charged for small amounts of marijuana.
“I think that it’s fair to say that it is the legalization in a couple of states. They know it’s illegal but they don’t think it’s a crime,” Freeburg said. “There’s some sort of disconnect.”
The typical marijuana case arises from a traffic stop in which rangers say they smell the drug in the vehicle.
“And most people, most of the time, if a ranger says, ‘Do you have any marijuana in your car?’ they’ll say yes,” Freeburg said. “In which case, there’s not a lot a criminal defense attorney can do for them.”
It should be remembered, of course, that Yellowstone receives upwards of three million visitors annually. In comparison, the number of marijuana possession cases is remarkably small.