Cannabis and Boating
Published on January 14th, 2019
by Charles Fort, BoatU.S.
For many years, BoatUS has warned against the dangers of boating while under the influence of alcohol, which, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, continues to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Now that the recreational use of marijuana is legal in nine states (including all of the West Coast of the U.S.), it’s time to take a look at how cannabis can affect boaters — and their wallets.
Nine states (plus the District of Columbia) allow some level of legal marijuana possession, and 30 states permit the medical use of cannabis. And 13 more states have decriminalized cannabis possession (people who possess small amounts of the drug don’t face criminal prosecution, but only civil penalties similar to a traffic fine).
These laws are changing quickly, so check with your state to make sure you know the legal status of cannabis possession and use. The fact is that, in some places, cannabis is becoming as mainstream as say, wine. But there are important distinctions.
Even if cannabis is legal in your state, the federal government still considers it a Schedule I drug, which the feds say has the potential for abuse and has no accepted medical use. This is very important, because on any water (or land) under federal jurisdiction, it’s illegal to possess cannabis even though a state may have legalized it.
And waters under federal jurisdiction are enormous. Consider that the entire coastline of the U.S. is under federal jurisdiction. That means that on coastal waters of California, Oregon, and Washington — states that have legalized cannabis — it is a federal crime to possess it. The U.S. Coast Guard says that “all waters including, but not limited to, the navigable waters of the United States” are under their authority.
It’s the “but not limited to” part that could be trouble for some boaters because, while it includes some bodies of water that seem obvious, such as the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and Chesapeake Bay, it’s also pretty much any waters that the federal government deems navigable, such as freshwater lakes, including Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake, Lake Champlain, and Lake of the Ozarks. – Full report