Proposed Boating Under the Influence regulations off the table – for now

Will state legislators revisit proposals to ban drinking while boating?

STATEWIDE — Comments and complaints of California’s regulatory procedures – and their respective effects on consumers – are a dime a dozen. Many laws created in the name of safety are interpreted as veiled attempts of state legislators and bureaucrats to collect as much money from its citizenry as possible. Perhaps a recent attempt to further legislate boating under the influence, or BUI, activities could be interpreted as state lawmakers potentially doing too much in the name of safety and public policy.

A state senator from the San Francisco Bay Area targeted drinking activities aboard boats in a bill proposal earlier this year. The bill – Senate Bill 65, or SB 65 – would aim to prohibit any drinking of alcoholic beverages while operating boat or sitting aboard as a passenger. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, removed BUI provisions from SB 65 in late March.

Boaters would have faced additional restrictions on drinking activities aboard their vessels had SB 65’s original BUI provisions remained in the proposal and ultimately signed into law. California’s Harbor and Navigation Code (section 655) already prohibits the operation of a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs; SB 65 would have extended BUI prohibitions into the state’s Vehicle Code.

The original version of SB 65 also proposed to prohibit marijuana use during operation of a boat or vessel.

Hill, on March 28, updated SB 65 to focus specifically on regulating marijuana use and vehicle operation. Groups such as the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) expressed relief when Hill removed the BUI provisions from his proposed legislation.

Boating advocates certainly view the revised version of SB 65 as a victory for recreational boaters.

An RBOC blog stated the removal of BUI provisions from SB 65 allows sensible regulations already on the books to remain in place.

“This provision [SB 65] would have been in addition to the significant BUI laws set forth in the Harbors and Navigation Code,” the RBOC blog post stated. “The current, extensive provisions of these state laws aim to strike an effective balance that prevents boating under the influence, effectively enforces the extensive state BUI laws, and acknowledges the boating experience.”

The prospects of added BUI regulation is off the table this year and California’s next legislative session is at about seven months away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about what might happen in 2018 (or beyond).

Current law already prohibits the operation a boat or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Of course the boater education card will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2018, meaning state law enforcement could be more active, as it were, in monitoring day-to-day boating activities.

Will state legislators try to address alcohol and/or drug use on boats in the future? Well nothing is stopping a state senator or assembly member from introducing something on Capitol Hill. Marijuana-themed proposals could be in store down the line as the state’s “green” policies are still evolving. Boaters should ultimately be as active as possible in monitoring future proposals on boating activities with safety or substance use themes.

Share This:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

Future legislation of boating safety or alcohol/substance use on vessels may or may not be on the docket, but it’s not too early to reach out to local representatives or advocacy groups to speak your mind on the prospect of upcoming proposals. Did the inclusion of BUI provisions in the original form of SB 65 go too far? Is additional regulation of alcohol use on the water necessary? What statistics, if any, are available to justify additional regulations on BUI activity or other forms of substance use while aboard recreational vessels?

These questions – and any more you might have – should be directed to your representatives in Sacramento and/or regional boating advocacy groups.


Marine Recreation Association

Mark Sanders, President



Mark Sandoval, Vice President



RJ Lorenzi, Trade Director



William Krauss, Legislative Advocate



Recreational Boaters of California

Peter Robertson, President



David Kennedy, Manager – Government Affairs

703-461-2878, ext. 3363


California State Parks

Gloria Sandoval, Deputy Director of Public Affairs



National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

Jeff Gabriel,

Nicole Vasilaros,


Sen. Dianne Feinstein


Twitter: @SenFeinstein


Sen. Kamala Harris

213-894-5000, 619-239-3884

Twitter: @KamalaHarris


Rep. Ted Lieu (Los Angeles)

323-651-1040, 202-225-3976, 310-321-7664

Twitter: @TedLieu


Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach)

562-436-3828, 202-225-7924

Twitter: @RepLowenthall


Rep. Scott Peters (San Diego)

858-455-5550, 202-225-0508

Twitter: @RepScottPeters


Rep. Juan Vargas (San Diego)

619-422-5963, 202-225-8045

Twitter: @RepJuanVargas


Rep. Darrell Issa (Oceanside/Dana Point)

949-281-2449, 760-599-5000, 202-225-3906

Twitter: @DarrellIssa


Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (Newport Beach/Huntington Beach)

714-960-6483, 202-225-2415

Twitter: @DanaRohrbacher


Rep. Julia Brownley (Channel Islands/Ventura)

805-379-1779, 202-225-5811

Twitter: @JuliaBrownley26


State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara/Ventura)

805-965-0862, 805-988-1940

Twitter: @SenHannahBeth


State Sen. Toni Atkins (San Diego)


Twitter: @ToniAtkins


State Sen. Tom Berryhill (Central California)


Twitter: @TomBerryhill