This week, the legend of Lana Del Rey reached its inevitable snake-eating-its-tail moment when the forlorn slow-pop ingenue released a video for her new song, "High by the Beach." In it, Del Rey wears a sea-glass-blue robe and blows a helicopter to smithereens with a massive toy gun, all while looking like her entire family has just died in a tragic car crash. Del Rey croons, "All I wanna do is get high by the beach / get high by the beach /get high," and while the singer's sultry starlet aesthetic suggests a slightly grimier drug than marijuana, we had to wonder: What would happen to us if we followed Del Rey's lead and began (wink) toking up on oceanfronts in America and elsewhere? Can we safely get high by the beach on any shore in this cruel world?
I spoke on the phone with Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and he had this to say on the issue: "If you are in Portland, Maine, and you put an ounce of weed in your hand, and you get in a car and drive all the way across the country to Portland, Oregon, the legality of that ounce will change so many times, it's incredible."
When I posed that there are at least ten states that have lax open-container laws — say you wanted to crack a beer while chilling on the beach in the Outer Banks, you could — and that weed should be the same, St. Pierre told me that our understanding of the private and public space is very convoluted when it comes to weed. "When I smoke on my porch in D.C., it's non-consequential," he said, adding that he often waves to law enforcement officers as they walk past. But if you wanted to live your best Lana Del Rey life, you could encounter fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record, just the same as if you were in a park or strolling down the street with that spliff lit.
Unanimously, smoking weed in a place that's public — which most beaches are unless you're Leonardo DiCaprio and you own that patch of sand — is illegal. If you find yourself sur la plage with a tightly rolled jay, you should be advised that lighting it up is your funeral, though it'd be a fun funeral, for what it's worth. But as marijuana gets legalized in few a states and decriminalized in many others, the pain of channeling Lana Del Rey might not be as bad as you think. Wanna get high by the beach? Beware of these very unchill penalties and fines.
A landlocked state, Colorado may not seem like the first choice for living out your stoned-in-the-sand daydreams, but if you find yourself relaxing by the Blue Mesa Reservoir, you need to know this: The penalty for public consumption of an ounce or less of weed could cost you $100, and even edibles count under that umbrella. Be careful with that walnut blondie!
Perhaps you'd thought about upping your game and seeking out an ocean-side beach to get high by, and so you've arrived at Westport in Washington with a little green and a strong will to channel Lana. While the views might be better, and the surf is strong, the same penalties apply in the weed-legal state. Wanna toke in public? You're gonna get a civil penalty and a fine of $100.
The Golden State may be home to Lana Del Rey's origin story and the surgeon who keeps plumping up her lips, but smoking weed by the beach here is probably not a good idea. If you have a majestic Malibu home with a wide porch overlooking the ocean, stay within those walls and be discreet about it. Not loaded? Since weed is technically still illegal in California (outside of medical use), the worst way to have your mellow harshed is getting arrested for lighting up bay-side. If you want to hold your weed just to have it close to you, you can keep up to 28.5 grams on your person and if you are discovered, it's only a $100 infraction.
The same thing goes for the Empire State, unfortunately. While weed is decriminalized in the state of New York, and you can legally have up to 25 grams on your person without going to jail, smoking weed in public gives police officers the opportunity to ticket you or even arrest you for a number of things. Are you near a playground? Do you have a previous misdemeanor? Are you pissing off the police or people around you? You could get yourself in trouble.
Miami isn't explicitly an influence for Lana Del Rey's "American girl, interrupted" look, but one could imagine her strolling down a beach there, wistfully lost in her summertime sadness. St. Pierre, however, would not advise it: "If you said, 'Let's go take a walk down the beach in Miami with a joint, if a rent-a-cop pulled up in back of you, you are going to get arrested." And that's not all: "They'll take you into the station. You're going to get printed. In some places, you will be swabbed, giving the government your genetic code." In Florida, 20 grams or less could put you in jail for up to a year. "We know when spring break begins here at NORML."
The Dutch Coast
When I asked St. Pierre about enjoying a weed getaway by the Dutch Coast, he says the laws are more lax. At a music festival in Holland, he told me, officers often "looked aside" when they saw people lighting up. But if you were taking in the sea breeze on a beach in Holland, getting ready to blow up a helicopter from the sky, you would likely get "a stern warning," unless you were explicitly selling drugs to kids.