As July 4 celebrations approach, the U.S. Coast Guard is reminding boaters that it can and will enforce federal marijuana laws on the waters it monitors, regardless of what state laws have to say about marijuana use.
“All of our federal laws and regulations will remain the same,” said Chellsey Phillips, public affairs officer for the Northern New England Coast Guard sector. “Our posture in the Coast Guard won’t change in terms of how we enforce those.”
The Coast Guard issued the reminder in the last week of June, in advance of Vermont’s July 1 legalization of recreational marijuana. It said it would “enforce all federal laws within navigable U.S. water, regardless of location or intended use.”
Mainers voted to legalize marijuana in 2016. The federal government still deems marijuana illegal, and can enforce those laws even in states that have legalized the substance.
“The Coast Guard may conduct boardings on commercial and recreational vessels on international, federal, and state waterways while on patrol to ensure the safety and security of the boating community,” the Coast Guard announced.
The Coast Guard routinely sends out patrols during major summer holidays to ensure boaters aren’t operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It calls that effort Operation Dry Water, and it runs June 29 through July 4.
If marijuana is discovered on a vessel, the Coast Guard could fine the boaters and seize the marijuana, according to Phillips.
“Our main priority is alway safety on the water,” she added.
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