CrimeBeat Q&A: Where can I drink alcohol and smoke pot in public?

People walk around Sonoma Plaza in 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD FILE)


CrimeBeat Q&A is a weekly feature where reporters answers readers’ questions about local crimes and the law.

Where can I drink wine and smoke marijuana in public?

Smoking a joint in public is illegal everywhere in California even though voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana on November’s ballot.

Under the approved ballot measure, smoking weed publicly is not permitted unless approved by a local ordinance.

Alcohol is a different story.

The general rule is that alcohol consumption is not allowed in most public areas. But drinking alcohol is allowed in most California state parks, Sonoma County Regional Parks and where zoned by municipal governments.

The city of Sonoma has the most liberal approach to alcohol of all cities in the county. Adults over 21 can consume alcohol anywhere in the city from 11:30 a.m. until sunset, seven days a week. While most public drinking is confined to Sonoma Plaza, the 2004 ordinance doesn’t restrict public drinking to the popular destination.

As long as adults are behaving, they’re within their rights to walk down a sidewalk with a glass of wine, Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett said.

There have been a handful of issues with public drunkenness over the past decade, Sackett said, but those have been isolated.

Public drinking is allowed in the Sonoma State Historic Park off the Sonoma Plaza, and at other state parks like Jack London and Trione-Annadel. At Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, which is managed by Sonoma Ecology Center, alcohol is limited to the picnic area.

Adults also can bring beer, wine and liquor to state beaches, campgrounds and picnics areas including Sonoma Coast State Park and Salt Point State Park. But littering comes with a hefty fine.

Drinking also is permitted in 47 of the 52 parks in the Sonoma County Regional Park system.

Drinking is allowed with a permit at the Forestville River Access, Guerneville River Park, Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, Larson Park and Maxwell Farms Regional Park, said Sonoma County Regional Parks spokeswoman Meda Freeman.

In Healdsburg, with a popular plaza in the center of the city much like Sonoma, the public alcohol policy is more restrictive. Drinking is limited to special events, including the weekly Tuesday night concerts from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in summer months, said Sgt. Nick Castañeda with the Healdsburg Police Department.

In Santa Rosa, alcohol consumption is allowed in community parks, including Howarth Memorial and Nagasawa Community parks, from 5 p.m. to sunset. Drinking is not allowed in Santa Rosa neighborhood parks without a permit.

Of course, no law prohibits consuming cannabis products at home and then venturing out, as long as someone sober is driving.