While marijuana gradually continues to be decriminalized and quasi-legalized across the country, transporting cannabis by boat, especially in large — or massive — quantities, is still likely to land you in jail.
Prompted by the Los Angeles Harbor Port Police’s March 14 discovery of an abandoned boat loaded with several hundred pounds of marijuana, we were inspired to review current pot laws, and consider how California’s evolving attitudes reconcile with strict maritime rules — and how the state’s estimated $2 billion-a-year "medical marijuana" industry fits into the picture.
Last November, Proposition 64 legalized the use of recreational marijuana in California, which was the first state in the union to legalize medical cannabis in 1996. The recreational-use law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Nevertheless, possession of weed on boats will remain a serious no-no.
Despite multiple states’ saying yes to recreational cannabis, the federal government still considers marijuana a "Schedule 1 narcotic," a category shared by heroin and LSD.
That means that the Coast Guard continues to frown upon possession and use on boats, to put it lightly. Regardless of state and local legislation, the CG still maintains a "zero tolerance” policy for possession of any amount of marijuana on any vessel, and has confiscated many boats during the last 30 years while enforcing that policy.
And that’s just the Coast Guard. The current Homeland Security umbrella has multiple agencies tasked with combating smuggling. These efforts are focused on high-volume trafficking, but reinforce the federal government’s attitude toward weed on California waters.
The bottom line for boaters: Even if pot becomes completely legal ashore, out on the water it will still be a major taboo.