U.S. Coast Guard warns mariners about marijuana use

JANUARY 14, 2014—Mariners thinking that a little recreational use of marijuana is just fine, could see their credentials go up in smoke. With states such as Washington and Colorado legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a notice warning mariners, marine employers, Medical Reviewing Officers and the public that a ban remains in place for the use of marijuana by those serving in safety-sensitive positions in the maritime transportation industry.

The Coast Guard says it is important to note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Among the other drugs listed on Schedule I are LSD, opiods, psychedelics, heroin, and quaaludes.

The Coast Guard says that it remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee serving in the maritime industry and subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana. The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation—49 CFR Part 40 – does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason.

As such, Medical Review Officers will not verify a drug test as negative based upon learning that the employee used “recreational marijuana” or “medicinal marijuana.” Furthermore, mariners/employees that hold a Merchant Mariner Credential and fail a drug test due to recreational or medicinal marijuana usage, will be subject to administrative action against their credential in accordance with federal regulations.

The Coast Guard’s regulation regarding recreational or medicinal drug usage is firmly aligned with the Department of Transportation’s regulation on the use of Schedule I drugs.