State vs. Federal Marijuana Laws - Ski Slopes on Federal Lands in Legal States Have to Walk a Tightrope

State vs. Federal Marijuana Laws - Ski Slopes on Federal Lands in Legal States Have to Walk a Tightrope

You want to allow cananbis use but your business sits on Federal land, now what?

Posted by:
Joseph Billions on Saturday Feb 5, 2022

ski resort on federal land cannabis use

Ski resorts are caught in the middle of murky legal issues surrounding state and federal cannabis policies.

China Peak Mountain resorts have been forced to position some workers to enforce federal cannabis policies around their property. The recent happenings at this establishment make it a perfect example to describe the contrasting state and federal laws.


The Cannabis Policy at China Peak Mountain

China Peak Mountain is a ski resort in California, located 110 kilometers northwest of Fresno. However, it operates primarily on federal lands. Therein lies the dilemma.

California cannabis legislation permits the recreational and medical use, sales, and cultivation of cannabis plants, but federal laws do not. Cannabis is a Schedule I substance according to the Controlled Substances Act. Other substances in this group include heroin, psychedelics, and cocaine.


This patchwork of cannabis policies has left ski resorts like China Peak Mountain in a confused state, unsure of which cannabis consumption laws to stick to. The Fresno-based resort currently adheres to federal laws and frowns against all forms of cannabis consumption on its grounds.


China Peak Is Cracking Down On Cannabis Use

About a month ago, the China Peak management put up a post on Instagram detailing its stance against marijuana use on its grounds. The resort explained that California's cannabis consumption laws are the opposite of the federal laws. Although the drugs are legal within the California borders, their consumption within the resort is an illegal act.

The resort's location on United States Forest Service Federal Land means it must abide 100% by its federal laws.


This gentle reminder was accompanied by a series of punishments that could be meted out to visitors found using cannabis. The report stated that employees would be positioned at various locations around the resort grounds to crackdown on its customer base who are adamant about using marijuana around the ski areas.


In addition to this, the management also mentioned that it had received dozens of complaints from consumers who did not like the smell of cannabis. These complaints popped up throughout the last season and increased towards the end of the year. This reinforced the management's decision to ensure all customers obeyed the federal rules. Staff are positioned in the parking lots, on lifts, and at several points on the ski grounds to prevent cannabis-consuming individuals from using the premises.


More Controversies

The Instagram post was received with mixed feelings. The post also received a lot of backlash from angry patrons who have promised to resist the resort's stance.


Those found using cannabis in the resort will be removed immediately, according to the management. Customers who insist on resisting will have their passes voided for the remainder of the season, and they will be restricted from the resort's grounds with no exceptions. Depending on the severity of the offense, the management says it would not allow some individuals to purchase the next season's pass.


The post's conclusion, which begs patrons to stick to the new rules, also sparked outrage. Some patrons maintained that there should be a safe space for cannabis use on the grounds, despite the management's wish to maintain its good standing with the USFS.


Softening its stance

Barely 48 hours after the post was put up, Tim Cohee, owner of China Peak Resorts, made another post on the company's Facebook page. He wrote that he and his board were not happy to be in such an awkward position as this. He added that he was frustrated with the contradictory cannabis policies throttling the resort's operations. While he and the resort's management had expected the post to receive mixed views, they had not expected it to go as badly as it did.


Cohee further wrote that this stance was giving the resort extra running costs, as new employees had to be hired to ensure all points were monitored at all times. This is because the resort does not have the staff numbers or the time to enforce these rules. He emphasized that the resort does not want to act as an enforcement officer, but they have no choice.

He asked that marijuana users respect the rules and consider the wishes of other guests, their families, and friends who find the smell of cannabis offensive. He added that cannabis smokers could temporarily leave the resort premises to consume weed to prevent being removed from the property for the whole day or more.


Finding a lasting solution

Tim Cohee expressed the frustration of many ski resort owners in the United States. To make matters worse, many of the country's largest ski resorts are located in cannabis-legal states but on federally granted land. Many consumers are often perplexed about how these laws work out, and it's not surprising because even the workers in the cannabis industry do not understand the constraint policies. Many owners have to find a compromise on this issue, and this confusion will linger until federal cannabis reform is finally approved.


Enforcing federal laws has become a bother to privately-owned resorts and even national parks. Many park officials and personnel stated that some cannabis users might be perplexed about the state's existing cannabis laws and why it is not permitted in these parks. Some come in with their medical marijuana cards issued by their home states in a bid to get around the federal laws being enforced. It's high time Congress took cannabis reforms more seriously to clarify and resolve these challenges.


At least six cases were filed against people found with cannabis in national parks in Wyoming alone. Alex Freeburg, a criminal defense attorney, explained that these parks and ski resorts have to enforce the law as it is written, regardless of whether or not the guest has a medical marijuana card.


Bottom Line

China Peak's cannabis situation is not unprecedented. In recent years, many resorts have lost potential customers due to these contrasts in federal and state cannabis consumption laws.


The same goes for states with no cannabis reform. Cannabis users have flooded into canna-legal states in droves to purchase and use the substance legally. This way, they get to enjoy cannabis without technically breaking their state's laws.


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