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Is Smoking Weed Legal on the Open Ocean?

Chloé Harper Gold

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Is Smoking Weed Legal on the Open Ocean?

Is smoking weed legal on the open ocean? In the United States, laws regarding cannabis are constantly changing. One day weed is legal in a state, the next, it’s not. You’ll see a news story on Tuesday about a state’s government legalizing some form of weed; by Thursday, the state will have put about two dozen restrictions and regulations on it. Since cannabis is federally illegal, laws become even murkier state to state. While you might legally be able to light up a joint in one state, the same action could brand you a criminal in another.

But what about leaving state soil to smoke up? Is getting high on a boat in the middle of the sea legal? Or can you still face legal repercussions?

(Very Basic) Maritime Law

In order to answer the question “is smoking weed legal on the open ocean?,” we need to first identify what we’re talking about when we say the phrase “open ocean.”

In this case, we are referring to international waters.

“What are international waters?,” you may ask. Basically, the term “international waters” refers to any body of water, typically an area of the ocean, that is not under the jurisdiction of any governing body, like a state or country. Typically, international waters are 12 miles off the coast of a country.

So if you’re not under the jurisdiction of a country or state, can you do bong rips on a boat in the middle of the ocean—like on a yacht or cruise ship?

Yes and no.

In most cases, boats are still subject to the state under which the boat is registered. Furthermore, the people who are on the boat are subject to those laws as well. For example, if you are on board a boat from California, you will need to abide by California state laws.

Interestingly enough, these laws are what allows the organization Women on Waves to exist.

Similar to cannabis activists in their quest to further and improve human rights, the activists involved in Women on Waves use the international maritime law. Specifically, they sail pregnant women (who do not wish to be pregnant) into international waters to administer abortion pills. The women live in countries without safe, legal abortion access and are often economically and socially disadvantaged.

Since the boat used by Women on Waves is registered in the Netherlands, they only need to abide by Dutch law when it comes to abortions.

Final Hit: Is Smoking Weed Legal on the Open Ocean?

So, if you’re traveling by boat and you get motion sickness, is it cool to start smoking a fat joint to alleviate your nausea? It really depends on the situation. If the boat you’re on is registered in a state where weed is legal, and you make sure that the boat’s crew is OK with it, then it’s probably fine. If you’re not sure, you might want to err on the side of caution when it comes to smoking weed on a boat. Maybe just stick to eating an edible.

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