Cannabis Legalization and the Policing of Boating Under the Influence in Washington State: Exploratory Research on Marine Officers’ Perceptions

Duane Stanton 1 * , Nicholas Lovrich 2, David Makin 2, Mary Stohr 2, Dale Willits 2, Craig Hemmens 2, Mikala Meize 2

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 4, Issue 2 (Special Issue), pp. 1-19

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In 2012, Washington State legalized recreational cannabis. The challenge of policing cannabis-related motor vehicle operator impairment emerged as an issue in the wake of legalization. There has been less focus on exploring the topic of boating under the influence (BUI), which is regrettable given the popularity of boating. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the National Safe Boating Council (NASBLA), in concert with the U.S. Coast Guard, have identified cannabis-impaired boating as a major problem and are using resources from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund to address it. To explore this topic, we conducted 17 semi-structured qualitative interviews with local and state law enforcement marine officers and their supervisors and trainers in Washington, as well as NASBLA-certified BUI trainers. These interviews explored the marine officers’ experiences since legalization, as well as their perceptions of marijuana legalization on public safety. Results drawn from the interviews indicate that marine officers are very concerned about the threats to public safety and responsible boating practices arising from cannabis-impaired boating and feel that enhanced training and funding is needed to better detect impairment and enforce BUI laws. Public policy, police training, and best practices implications arising from these interviews are discussed.

Keywords: BUI, DUI, Cannabis, Police, Law Enforcement, Impairment.