Let's All Enjoy Cannabis Safely as Wildfire Season Approaches

As wildfire risks increase during the summer, hikers and campers need to keep their combustion in check.
As wildfire risks increase during the summer, hikers and campers need to keep their combustion in check. Courtesy of CannaVenture
Cannabis use is often associated with fire, for better or worse.

It's not hard to see why. When you think of someone "lighting up," even the verbiage suggests ignition and combustion. But in the outdoors, fire is cause for concern.

Annually, wildfires cause billions of dollars' worth of fire damage nationwide, often preventable.

Last year, Colorado saw one of its fastest-spreading and most damaging wildfires burn through the residential areas of Superior and Louisville in the dead of winter, followed by a snowstorm. In the summer, the fire danger is even higher, and the conditions drier.

Whether you're smoking a joint, lighting a bowl or making medicated s'mores around a campfire, taking the necessary precautions during wildfire seasons will help preserve nature for years to come.

From the onset of CannaVenture, it has been my goal to push for responsible outdoor cannabis use. When I began hosting cannabis hikes and campouts in 2016, the reality of fire danger as it relates to cannabis became even more apparent. Now in our seventh season, we continue to offer guidance on how to enjoy your favorite products without endangering the world around you. By establishing safe fire habits when "lighting up" outdoors, we can continue to overcome the stigma of cannabis consumers as careless, wielding individuals.

Here are seven tips for safe outdoor cannabis use in dry seasons:

Always check for fire bans
This should be your first step before ever hitting the trail or setting up camp. Restrictions can range from mild to outright prohibitive depending on how dry your area is. If there is a fire ban, adjust your plans accordingly (this sometimes includes no campfires, smoking, etc.).

Follow fire bans
This should go without saying, but if there is a fire ban, it is important to follow all posted notices in your area. As tempting as it might be to spark up in a place where "no one else will know," all it takes is an unexpected gust of wind to spiral that decision out of control.

Choose non-combustible consumption methods
Often, fire bans will restrict smoking activities to barren and cleared areas of a certain size, like parking lots, picnic areas or "cleared recreation sites." These are typically defined by combustion and the need for an ignition source, such as lighters, large torches or matches. The easiest way to avoid fire danger is to avoid fire altogether, making electronic dab rigs, handheld vaporizers, edibles and topicals some of the best options during the warmer, drier months.

Contain your ashes
Whenever possible, try to contain ashes if you are in a situation that allows for smoking. Dump bowls, flick joints and blunts, and dispose of matches in portable ash trays (they're relatively cheap and reusable). Or, after ensuring the ashes are out, throw them in the pocket of your bag.

Bring enough water
This holds true for both fire danger and hydration. If you are able to spark up, make sure you have enough water to deal with any ashes you may be generating in case sparks fly. If you are consuming cannabis, no matter what form, in a warm and dry climate, it is important that you stay hydrated to avoid further risks.

Tell someone your plan
We've all heard about someone who got too high and got lost in the woods. Don't be that person. But if you are prone to getting lost, it never hurts to share your plan — where you're headed, for how long, with whom, and so on — with someone else in case of emergencies.

Know yourself. Know your limits.
Your first time trying cannabis is probably not the best time to go hiking, and vice versa. It is important to know how your body reacts to cannabis and responds to outdoor activity.

Staying within your consumption and physical limitations will allow for the best possible experience. If you are normally incapacitated by 100-milligram edibles, maybe start with 10 or 20 milligrams, and see how you feel mid-outing; if you know you are fairly fit but not Mount Everest-ready, choose an easy or moderate hike and see how the cannabis-hiking combo works out for your routine.

click to enlarge CannaVenture founder Ben Owens - COURTESY OF BEN OWENS
CannaVenture founder Ben Owens
Courtesy of Ben Owens
With a little forethought and a bit of consideration for the world and those around you, we can all safely enjoy cannabis and nature for years to come.

To further help cannabis consumers and nature enthusiasts enjoy the great outdoors for years to come, CannaVenture partnered up with the Cannabis Creative Movement to produce a Responsible Recreation guide. This guide offers more insight into best practices and good habits for combining cannabis with the great outdoors, and benefits CannaVenture's nonprofit partner, Wilderness on Wheels.

Ben Owens is an avid hiker and the founder and crew leader of CannaVenture, a cannabis-friendly hiking and camping group. frequently publishes op-eds and essays on matters of interest to the community; the opinions are those of the authors, not Westword. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also comment on this op-ed.
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