As boating season hits the prime summer months, this question pops up more frequently: Will I get busted if I possess a small amount of cannabis on my craft? IS it legal to cruise with weed?
The short answer is yes, it is still illegal. But, like all marijuana regulations, the actual answer will vary depending on where you live.
Of the eight states that have legalized the adult use of marijuana, six are coastal states (Washington, Oregon, California Alaska, Maine and Massachusetts) and are, therefore, subject to Coast Guard jurisdiction. Nevada is landlocked, but Lake Tahoe falls under Coast Guard authority. Only Colorado is free of Coast Guard presence.
Related Story: 5 Out-of-the-Way Cannabis-Friendly Vacation Destinations
And the Coast Guard is crystal clear on its position. Andrew Barresi, a Coast Guard spokesman based in Boston, said in an email to Portland (Maine) Press Herald:
“The Coast Guard enforces federal laws within all navigable U.S. waters. This means that in all marijuana cases, Coast Guard law enforcement officers will enforce federal law, even in states which have legalized it. Federal law has not changed, so our enforcement of that law has not changed.”
This is not surprising. Federal law-enforcement agencies follow federal law. And the Coast Guard has wide jurisdiction on federal waters. According to Boating magazine:
The difference is that on land, federal officers aren’t out writing tickets for faulty taillights, but the Coast Guard routinely boards boats, even within state waters, to enforce federal boating-safety laws. While they’re inspecting flares or looking in the PFD locker, if they find a baggie with a little weed, it becomes a big problem.
The laws become a muddier in states, such as Washington, where many commuters use the ferry system as a part of their workday. State law enforcement officials will look the other way if the amount is within the legal limits, but the Coast Guard still insists that it will follow federal law.
The bottom line: If you have a small amount of cannabis and are in a legal state, you should be fine. Just don’t flaunt the fact you are carrying cannabis.