Coast Guard combats substance abuse at sea

Boaters can anticipate an increased law enforcement presence on waters throughout Alaska as the U.S. Coast Guard marks Operation Dry Water July 5-7.

The national campaign focuses on reducing the number of alcohol and drug related accidents and fatalities and fostering a stronger, more visible deterrent to drug and alcohol use on the water. That National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, local, state and other federal law enforcement agencies are partnered with the Coast Guard in this effort.

The Coast Guard also reminded boaters that while recreational use of marijuana is legal at the state level, possessing marijuana on federal waters is still against the law.

“As a federal law enforcement agency, the Coast Guard can seize marijuana on federal waterways, issue a civil penalty and /or pursue criminal action,” said Chief Warrant Officer Thad Wagner with the Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Enforcement Division.

Boaters in federal waters in possession of personal use quantities of marijuana may be found in violation of 46 USC 70506 (c), simple possession, a violation that may include a civil penalty ranging between $500 and $5,000.

Boaters found to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs can expect to incur penalties, including arrest, fines and impoundment of their vessel.