By WeedMaps News' Thor Benson, provided exclusively to Benzinga Cannabis.
Massachusetts lawmakers recently warned residents that though marijuana is legal in the state, it's still not legal to smoke weed out on the water.
Indeed, across the United States, if you're boating on federal waterways off the coast or on a lake, you're not legally allowed to possess or consume weed. Coastal areas, rivers, and lakes that touch more than one state are overseen by both federal and state governments.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission embarked on a public awareness campaign this summer to remind boaters and others that cannabis and water don't mix — for safety and legal reasons.
“The Commission expects adults who choose to consume cannabis in Massachusetts to know the laws, including the federal restrictions that are still in place,” said Cannabis Control Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan in a statement. “If you are planning to take a boat ride this summer in federal waters, leave your cannabis at home.”
In 2008, the Coast Guard issued warnings about possessing cannabis on Lake Champlain, which borders Vermont and New York. When New Hampshire decriminalized cannabis in 2017, the Coast Guard warned people that laws governing cannabis use and possession aren't the same on the water as they are on land, information that has escaped some cannabis consumers.
“Though states have some jurisdiction, all coastal waters touching the country are subject to federal laws,” said Matthew Schweich, Deputy Director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “The Coast Guard has stated publicly they will continue to enforce federal marijuana laws, even in states where it has been legalized.”
California, the largest state to legalize cannabis, has many waterways where cannabis possession and consumption are not legal. Furthermore, it's illegal under California law to smoke publicly in general.
Adeline Yee, Information Officer for California State Parks, told Weedmaps News that marine patrol enforcement has not been increased since the state legalized marijuana, but that law enforcement will prosecute individuals who are violating federal laws. She said there has been only one marijuana-related boating death since legalization.
If you don't want to break the law, don't go in the water and possess or consume cannabis. All coastal waters are governed by federal laws, which prohibit cannabis consumption, even on coastlines of legal states. (Weedmaps News file photo)
A representative from the Coast Guard's office in California said the agency is still actively pursuing cannabis trafficking off the coast, but is not targeting people who are simply bringing small amounts of cannabis on a boat trip. Essentially, they're a lot more worried about cartels than a guy with a joint, but they will prosecute people caught with small amounts of cannabis, too.
Yee said that educating the public on the law is key, and the state has been working to do just that.
“Marine patrol law enforcement agencies have begun to inform boaters that cannabis-induced impairment is covered under existing Harbors and Navigation Code for reckless, negligent operation of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or any drug,” Yee said. “Law enforcement have reported boaters have been cited for operating recreational vessels while under the influence of cannabis.”