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The Coast Guard Will Be Enforcing Federal Cannabis Laws in Legal Weed States this Fourth of July

Once a boat leaves the dock, state laws are quickly superseded by the Coast Guard’s federal narcotics policies, including cannabis prohibition.

by Zach Harris

With summer officially here and an extended Fourth of July weekend already in full swing, if you’re not on your way to the beach, firing up the BBQ or boarding a boat, you’re probably doing something wrong. And while over half of the country has access to some form of legal weed, be it medical or recreational, to help them celebrate American freedom, a recent reminder from the Coast Guard is here to kill the buzz for those spending the holiday on the high seas.

According to Maine’s Portland Press Herald, the Coast Guard will spend their Fourth of July weekend patrolling American waters, protecting holiday boaters from the natural dangers of the ocean, drunk uncles steering erratically, and unfortunately, enforcing federal marijuana laws on yachts, schooners and sailboats around the country. Even in states where weed is recreationally legal on shore, a Coast Guard spokesman says federal prohibition is in full effect on the high seas.

“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,” Andrew Barresi, a Coast Guard spokesman based in Boston, told the Press Herald.

Barresi added that Coast Guard officers will enforce the federally-backed laws in state, federal and international waters in order to protect the safety of boaters across their jurisdiction. Even if a boat’s driver is completely sober if there’s weed on board, the Coast Guard won’t be happy.

“Some actions that could be taken for individuals found to be in possession of marijuana, include, but are not limited to, seizure of the marijuana, receipt of a citation, or being taken into custody.” Barresi said.

In states like Maine, where adults 21 and over can legally possess cannabis and smoke on their own property, officials and cannabis activists alike are warning residents to leave the weed at home when setting sail for the Fourth.

“Based on the Coast Guard’s statement, we would not advise Mainers to possess or use marijuana in federal waters,” David Boyer, Maine director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “With support for making marijuana legal at an all-time high, the federal government needs to back off of states that have chosen a more sensible marijuana policy.”

In a slight change towards more liberal cannabis enforcement, the Press Herald noted that the Coast Guard will not seize boats after first-time cannabis infractions unless a vessel is carrying over 50 pounds of pot, a change in policy from years past.

Still, if you’re enjoying this Fourth of July holiday on a boat, you might want to consider eating some edibles before boarding instead of packing the pipe - it could save you some incredibly unnecessary time in a federal courthouse.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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