Coast Guard will be on the Kenai River patrolling for pot

Jun 12, 2019

Even though commercial cannabis sales have been legal in Alaska for a couple of years, the state’s position is still in conflict with federal law. That message was brought home by the U.S. Coast Guard at a recent Kenai City Council meeting.

Lt. Scott Peters told the council that the Coast Guard Auxiliary will be doing boating safety checks at the Kenai Dock duding low tide, while he and rangers from State Parks will be out on the Kenai River doing boating safety checks.

"So there's going to be two weekends where auxiliary members are going to be working the dock and the boat ramps during the tidal closures, so while people can't launch, we will be targeting that. So that's going to be July 12 and 13th and the 26th and 27th they'll be at various spots along the river doing that,” Peters said. “I'm working with the Alaska State Parks and the park rangers on board their vessels are a federal-state nexus working together. They will handle state laws, possible fishery regulations, and I will be handling the federal side of the boating safety enforcement.”

And part of that federal enforcement will be cracking down on cannabis, with fines as high as $5,000.

He described the issue as a conflict between state and federal laws.

“Marijuana is now legal in the state of Alaska, (but) it is still illegal to be in possession of any on water the Coast Guard has jurisdiction,” he said. “Right now as it sits, maximum penalty of $5,000, and for a first offense of $500 for simple possession.”

Peters said he, the auxiliary and Coast Guard Public Affairs are trying to get the word spread far and wide to head off any problems.

“We’re working with our public affairs and the local municipalities so we can put that word out, get everybody to leave the marijuana in their vehicle and not bring it out on the water so that we have as few issues with this as possible,” Peters said. “Obviously, boating under the influence no matter what it is, whether it be a regulated drug or alcohol, is still illegal in the state.”

Council members suggested various ways to help, including adding the information to the city’s dipnet app. The season opens on July 10.