Can You Smoke Hemp in Public?

Can You Smoke Hemp in Public?

With the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018, Congress federally legalized the production and use of hemp in the United States. Since then, people all over the country have begun to take advantage of the benefits of CBD-based products.  

However, there’s still a lot of confusion about the legality of smoking hemp, including where you’re allowed to do so.

From legal ins and outs of public consumption to wise advice — here’s what you need to know about smoking hemp in public. 

Can You Smoke Hemp in Public?

Yes, it’s legal to smoke hemp in public areas that are not designated as non-smoking. But, before you spark up a joint on your next nature hike, keep the following information in mind.

The police should not be able to arrest and/or fine you for smoking hemp in designated public smoking areas. However, because the plant smells and looks almost identical to pot, it’s possible that law enforcement will legally treat this situation as they would marijuana (this varies by state depending on if marijuana has been decriminalized or not).

Plus, because a reliable, on-the-spot test for marijuana hasn’t yet been developed, similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol, when a police officer smells or sees hemp flower, they may assume that it’s of the illicit variety. 

As long as an officer can claim probable cause to believe someone is publicly consuming hemp in a place where marijuana consumption is illegal, they could potentially arrest you or give you a ticket. However, it’s difficult for them to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

Beyond yourself and the law, however, please consider the health effects of second-hand smoke when smoking near others. Similar to traditional cigarettes, hemp shouldn’t be used in public non-smoking areas, as well as indoors (barring your private residence). Many non-smokers simply do not want to risk breathing in secondhand smoke, regardless of whether it’s from a traditional or hemp cigarette.

The best thing to do is to simply not smoke in the same areas where you wouldn’t smoke a cigarette. Also, try to smoke away from non-smokers and children as best as you can. Remember, privacy is imperative when trying to avoid any unwanted attention from the likes of the police, security, good samaritans, etc.

Word to the Wise

Here are some final tips and considerations for those looking to smoke in public while remaining incognito. 

  • If you find yourself interacting with a police officer who inquires about you smoking hemp in public, calmly explain that it is a CBD product and contains legal amounts of THC, if any. 
  • When smoking hemp in public, it’s a good idea to keep the product packaging somewhere on your person. That way, if you get questioned, you can supply evidence that what you’re smoking is CBD-based and not traditional marijuana.
  • If the officer is persistent, after you present the facts, ask if you are being detained and/or arrested. If not, ask, “Can I leave?” If you are arrested, say as little as you can and request to speak with a lawyer immediately so that you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to further charges.
  • To avoid police scrutiny altogether, consider consuming hemp in different forms such as through oils, drinks, or vaporizers. Because there’s no combustion with these products, the odors are not as potent and won’t linger while still providing the same effects.
  • To reduce odors and stay discreet, try smoking before you leave the house, intermittently spraying yourself with perfume or deodorizer, and make sure you have plenty of breath mints handy.
  • Distance yourself from others while smoking in public to help prevent any reports of illegal activity or irritation from onlookers.

While not illegal, smoking hemp in public may be a cause for unwanted attention - both from passersby and law enforcement. By distancing yourself from others while smoking and having the product packaging on-hand if you are questioned, you will protect yourself as best as you can from social/legal ramifications.


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