Although the laws and regulations regarding marijuana use have changed on land, boaters are reminded that the laws still apply while on seascape. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I narcotic categorizing it with drugs like heroin and ecstasy and while it is legal in 23 states, the USCG does not recognize it as an exemption. Anyone in possession of marijuana on the water, from credentialed mariners to recreational boaters, will face consequences as the U.S. Coast Guard enforces federal law.
Coast Guard regulations require mariners to be drug tested throughout employment and require certain employers to conduct periodic random tests. Depending on the license and vessel, a mariner or crewmember is likely subject to testing pre-employment, after an incident on the water, during a license renewal period, at a periodic scheduled time, at an unscheduled random time, or when an employer has reasonable cause to believe that an employee is using drugs. This means the person is subject to testing virtually any time. As a reminder, marijuana can remain detectable in a person urine for weeks, so even use of it while not working can risk a person’s employment status. Detection of marijuana on a drug test is grounds to deny your Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) application or revoke current credentials.
As for recreational boaters, if you are out on the water even in waters of a state that has legalized marijuana, and you are under the influence, you run the risk of being convicted of a federal crime for the possession or use of marijuana. Additionally, cruise passengers should be aware that even beyond the security screenings they will go through, additional bag and room inspections are possible during the cruise. If found in violation of this law, passengers can face fines, removal from the vessel, travel fees to return home, and potentially criminal or civil legal action.