Mariners and recreational boaters must beware that while the landscape of marijuana laws has changed in the U.S., the seascape has not.
The U.S. Coast Guard enforces federal law on the high seas to inland waters, including state navigable waters. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I narcotic in the same group as drugs like heroin and ecstasy. Anyone in possession of marijuana on the water, from credentialed mariners to recreational boaters, should know the consequences.
Mariners, Marijuana & Your MMC at Risk
Despite marijuana’s legal status in 23 states and counting, the Coast Guard does not recognize an exception (regulated by 46 CFR 40) for this drug.
Coast Guard regulations require mariners to be drug tested at various stages of employment, and require certain employers to conduct periodic random tests as well. Depending on the particular license and vessel, a mariner or crewmember is likely subject to testing pre-employment, after an incident on the water, during a license renewal period, at a periodic scheduled time, at an unscheduled random time, or when an employer has reasonable cause to believe that an employee is using drugs. Given all of these lawful opportunities to test, a mariner should know that they could be tested at virtually any time. It’s important to remember that marijuana can remain detectable in urine for many weeks, so even when off-the-job and in a legalized state, your maritime employment could still be at risk if you use marijuana products. For mariners, detection of marijuana on a drug test is grounds to deny your Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) application or revoke current credentials.
You have options, if you do lose your credentials on drug-test related grounds. The National Maritime Center (NMC), which oversees the issuance of MMC, states that positive drug results must be reported to a local Coast Guard sector, which your employer will do. From there, a path for appeal or reconsideration may be determined after an assessment period. As part of the reconsideration or appeal process, the NMC might allow you to provide a letter, submissions to drug tests, or anything else they deem necessary to demonstrate suitability requirements.
Some of the factors considered in determining whether your credentials can be reinstated are: your history with drug use and abuse, habits or life changes that you have implemented since testing positive, any rehabilitation steps you have taken, the circumstances of your violation,
employment history, and character references that specifically demonstrate your reliability and work ethic.
The appeal process is case-specific, so it is important to have a strong and thorough re application, addressing all of the suitability requirements and having a maritime attorney assist you in this process could prove invaluable to your ability to return to work.
Recreational Boaters and Cruise Passengers
For recreational boaters on and cruise passengers, beware, because if you are on navigable waters, even in a state that allows marijuana, federal law controls and you could be convicted of a federal crime for possession or use of marijuana. Cruise passengers who bring marijuana onto the vessel should know that all passengers undergo security screenings and are subject to additional bag and room inspections during the cruise. If they are found in violation of the no drug policies aboard these ships, passengers could face fines, removal from the vessel, travel fees to return home, and potentially criminal or civil legal action.
Weed and water don’t mix. Your high time on the high seas can be rough seas for mariners and boaters alike. If you have any questions, Latti & Anderson has over a 50-year tradition of helping mariners and recreational boaters for personal injuries to employment issues. Contact us, www.lattianderson.com, 800-392-6072 or text 617-797-2203 to learn more about the ways the dedicated attorneys at Latti & Anderson can assist you.