Public opinion on marijuana has evolved rapidly. Whether for medical ailments or just for fun, use of marijuana in the United States is on the rise, and whatever one’s reason is for smoking pot, it doesn’t go away when it’s time for vacation. The legal and practical implications of bringing pot or other THC-laden products on a cruise are very important to consider though.
Let me start by making something clear: I don’t personally care if you use any sort of cannabis product – it doesn’t bother me one bit. My opinion however, doesn’t matter, and as I’ll point out in a moment, neither do the laws in your state.
Cruise Line Policies on Marijuana
Every cruise line has policies (listed online and in your cruise contract) that list what cannot be brought onto these ships, and every line we contacted and researched, noted in various terms, that drugs or controlled substances are prohibited. Some lines, such as Carnival and NCL, specifically explain that medical marijuana is prohibited.
- Carnival Cruise Line, Prohibited Items: “…Any illegal narcotics/drugs including synthetic, designer drugs, Cannabidiol (CBD) and medical marijuana.”
- Norwegian Cruise Line, Prohibited Items List: “1. All illegal narcotics/drugs. (Including Marijuana prescribed for medical purposes and other items used as drug paraphernalia...)”
Do Cruise Lines Check for Marijuana When You Board?
Cruise lines have their own security procedures, some of which are dictated by corporate policy, and others by the laws of the port of embarkation. Some of these security procedures are easily visible, such as x-ray machines, pat downs, bag searches, etc. Others are not as conspicuous, and might include dogs and/or machines that sniff out dangerous chemicals, explosives, or drugs.
In addition, local police departments and other law enforcement agencies patrol cruise ports – and reliably, US Customs and Border Protection is present at the end of cruises, looking to ensure that prohibited items, ranging from drugs to produce, do not enter the country.
Okay, But I Think I Can Sneak it on the Ship
Frankly, while I am comfortable with the security procedures cruise lines have in place, I bet you can easily bring weed onto a cruise ship. THC vape cartridges don’t smell, edibles are inconspicuous, and hey, you can probably just put a baggie in your pocket like when you fly, right? Sure, probably. Of course, the 24 people arrested for possession of marijuana, cocaine, and MDMA while boarding Norwegian Epic in for a 2018 cruise out of Port Canaveral might not want to try it again.
What Happens if Your Caught Brining Marijuana on a Cruise Ship
Many cruises leave from Florida, California, New York, and Washington – all states with very relaxed laws and social attitudes toward pot. In fact, California and Washington have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and New York and Florida have widespread legal medical use of marijuana. That in mind, the laws of your state don’t matter.
In addition to that fact that as of 2019, possession of marijuana is against federal law in the United States, you’re getting on a ship, and that ship is leaving the port. Even if you live in Florida, have a medical marijuana card, and are boarding the ship in Florida, the ship is leaving, and is not part of that (or any) state.
Get Comfortable with Drug Laws in Haiti, Dominican Republic, the Barbados, etc
Because you’re on a ship visiting different countries, you can think of it like being in a car and driving into another state – you, your car, and everything inside is crossing borders. International boarders don’t start at the beach either, so even if you dematerialized any contraband before docking, you might still be breaking the rules in a different country – never mind the laws of the country of registry for the ship.
If while at sea someone reports that you may have something illegal, the ship’s security team may alert local authorities who may then board the ship upon docking and search your room and possessions based on local laws, without a warrant, etc.
Think this doesn’t happen? Think again – it happens more than you’d think.
- In late 2018, an American were arrested in Bermuda related to possession of marijuana. Meghan George, was searched by a customs official as she was boarding Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. The local authorities then searched her stateroom and found pipes, a grinder, and a vape cartridge with cannabis oil. She was fined $4,000, which had to be paid before leaving the island.
- In 2016, a Bahamian newspaper The Tribune reported that a magistrate told a passenger on a Carnival ship that after being found in possession of 9 grams of marijuana, he’d either need to pay $500 or spend three months in a Nassau jail. [Note: These types of arrests and pentalies have become very common for tourists in the Bahamas.]
- In 2018 a 37 year old American man was arrested for assault and possession of marijuana in Grand Cayman. During his arrest, he ended up requiring emergency medical care at a local hospital. It wasn’t clear if his medical emergency was related or coincidental to his run in with law enforcement.
Can you likely get away with brining marijuana or other THC products on a cruise ship? Sure. But, if you do get caught, the repercussions can be significant. Federal charges in the US, or even arrest in a foreign country that may have very different laws (and prisons) than what you’re used to. Neither of those scenarios sound like an enjoyable vacation - I get upset having to go home at the end of a cruise, I can't imagine going to jail in the middle of one. Now, if you want to know what you should pack on your trip, we have a section of completely legal articles ready and waiting for you.