A sailboat floating off the coast on a hot, breezy summer day might sound like a perfect place to enjoy some marijuana. But state and federal officials are warning would-be stoned boaters to think twice before lighting up a joint at sea.
While cannabis is legal and commercialized in Massachusetts, federal law still considers it one of the most dangerous illicit drugs out there, akin to heroin. Laugh if you want — even pot prohibitionists concede the classification is objectively absurd — but the Coast Guard crews patrolling the waters off Massachusetts are bound by federal law and they are unlikely to be impressed by such protestations, however impassioned, or your weed, however dank.
The US Coast Guard’s New England division earlier this month warned boaters that despite legalization in Massachusetts and Maine, it would enforce the federal ban on using, possessing, or transporting marijuana. The agency said it regularly conducts “boardings on commercial and recreational boats on international, federal, and state waterways while on patrol to ensure the safety and security of the boating community.”
The state Cannabis Control Commission on Friday echoed that message, issuing a statement reminding the public that it is dangerous and illegal to boat while impaired.
“The Commission expects adults who choose to consume cannabis in Massachusetts to know the laws, including the federal restrictions that are still in place,” Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan said. “If you are planning to take a boat ride this summer in federal waters, leave your cannabis at home. And, it bears repeating: never, ever drive a boat when under the influence of cannabis, or ride with a driver who may be at risk of being impaired.”
While the commission may not have its own navy (ed. note: ... yet) to enforce the warning, it’s correct about the danger. Sure, boaters don’t have to deal with pedestrians, narrow lanes, and other hazards facing drivers, but anyone who has cruised the busy waterways off the Massachusetts coast knows you need a clear head to navigate the many tight channels, fast tidal currents, hidden shallows, and other boats.
And frankly, the situation at sea is already dicey enough with all the drunk boaters out there — the Coast Guard in its statement noted that alcohol is the leading known factor in fatal boating accidents.
Bottom line: play it safe and leave your stash on shore, or run the risk that federal pot pirates flying the stars and stripes will board your vessel and ruin your day.