Using state ferries to transport legal marijuana

To go to or from Vashon Island is to ride a ferry. Although a bridge between West Seattle and the island has been suggested, most islanders hate the idea and the costs have always been ridiculous. If you have a private plane, you can fly to and from Vashon, and some do, including Guido Perla, the internationally known naval architect who has made his home on Vashon for many years. But your basic, everyday trip to and from the Seattle side is courtesy of your debit card and Washington State Ferries.

Now, say, you live on Vashon Island and you’ve been awarded a permit by the state’s liquor control board to grow marijuana commercially on your bucolic rural acreage. Where’s the market? Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue and the rest of the nearby urban area, of course. How do you get it there? In your car, truck or van, of course. How do you get those wheels to the mainland? On a Washington State Ferry, of course. That will be $22.05 for car and driver, peak season, round trip.

But wait! You’ve got marijuana in your trunk? Pot may be legal in Washington and in Colorado, but all the drug czars in Washington D.C. still see it as the demon weed from hell, officially anyway. So it’s still a federal crime to possess marijuana, especially for sale, and while you may be on a state ferry, you’re still under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard, which has a thing about busting marijuana shipments at sea. If they catch you with sufficient commercial quantities, you might even be the subject of a press release praising the brave crew for once again keeping the high seas free of dangerous narcotics.

This is why Marta Coursey, a spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries, told the Seattle Times that “Citizens may not transport marijuana on our ferry system,” when asked if pot could be “shipped” on ferries.

I suppose she had to say that, officially. Unofficially, most people suspect that we’re looking at a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation here. And don’t have a large marijuana leaf stenciled on the side of your van, either. 

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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