Updated January 8, 2020
It's not a stretch to say that parts of the United States have been rethinking how they categorize cannabis; pot legalization and decriminalization movements have been gaining ground across the country in recent years. As of 2016, the District of Columbia and four states -- including Alaska and Washington, two popular cruise destinations -- have legalized marijuana for personal use, and another 21 states have legalized it for medical use.
But does that mean you can blaze up on the high seas? Hardly. Despite many states and cities downgrading penalties for possession, marijuana is still classified as a narcotic under federal law -- and those are the rules that govern international cruise shipping. Besides the fact that the aforementioned law supersedes any state or local laws, every single cruise line has a rule prohibiting marijuana in their contracts of carriage. Combined with the fact that almost all cruise lines are nonsmoking these days, and you'll see why smoking pot on a cruise ship is a huge no-no.
And in a nod to the ever-changing evolution of cannabis products, we'll take our warnings a few steps further and offer this as a bottom line: No pot -- or any of the myriad products on the market that now contain cannabis -- is allowed on cruise ships, ever. It's really that simple.
Despite this clarity, we've found a few questions about marijuana use on cruise vacations that are worth addressing. We'll do our best to answer them below.
Can I smoke pot on a cruise ship?
Can I bring edibles (pot-infused food or gummies) on a cruise ship?
Can I bring a vaporizer or hash oil or cartridges on a cruise ship?
I have a medical marijuana card. Can I bring any of the above with me on a ship?
No. If you take marijuana for a medical condition, you will have to find alternative ways to treat your illness during your cruise vacation. The ships do not take doctors' notes or make allowances for medicinal use.
What happens if I sneak pot or associated cannabis products on a cruise ship?
If you are caught, you are in big trouble. As in, you have just broken federal drug laws -- not just for illegal use, but for transporting narcotics across international borders. You will not only be thrown off the cruise ship immediately, you are likely to be turned over to the local police, and you will either face fines or jail time.
But I live in Denver! Isn't there a special allowance for me?
No. There isn't.
Can I use marijuana in Seattle before or after I board my cruise?
Here's one instance where the answer is yes -- but a very limited one. Washington State has legalized personal use of small amounts of marijuana. Visitors to the state who are age 21 and older can visit an official dispensary and buy a restricted amount (less than 1 ounce of actual plant, less than 16 ounces of edibles, less than 72 ounces of liquid or less than 7 grams of concentrates). Note that it's illegal to consume pot in public (including in state or national parks and on hiking trails or navigable waterways). It's also illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, resell it or mail it outside of Washington. Add in the fact that almost all hotels are nonsmoking, and your options become more limited.
The Port of Seattle itself is federal property, however, so you best have it all gone before you board.
Can I buy marijuana in Alaska once I get there and use it there?
The rules in Alaska are similar to those in Washington. You can't consume pot in national parks or on national forest land. You can't drive with it. And -- this is the biggie -- you can absolutely not bring it back to your ship, even if your next several ports are also in Alaska. Think of the ship as the big "no" zone.
What about British Columbia? The Canadians seem more laid back about these things.
They aren't. While medical marijuana is legal in Canada, recreational use is not.
Forget the Pacific Northwest. What about Jamaica? Surely I can smoke weed there?
Contrary to popular belief and a million reggae songs, recreational ganja has been illegal in Jamaica for decades. In 2015, the country did relax its medical marijuana rules so that tourists who have a card can legally buy up to 2 ounces, but those details haven't been worked out (and there's no dispensary system similar to what you see in the United States). Practicing Rastafarians in Jamaica are allowed to smoke ganja for religious reasons. Wearing a crocheted beanie does not make you a Rastafarian, however.
As cruise tourists know, if you really want to find pot in Jamaica, you don't have to work that hard. Vendors often solicit aggressively outside the cruise port, and tours that visit Bob Marley's birthplace in the hills are particularly known for running into marijuana sellers. Again, keep in mind that if you make a purchase, it all has to be gone before you get on the ship.
My cruise begins or ends in Amsterdam. Can I visit the coffee shops and buy pot products there?
Marijuana is not technically legal in the Netherlands, but the Dutch laws do allow it to be tolerated, and Amsterdam's city center still has plenty of "coffee" shops. Just like in Seattle or Alaska, what you do in ports where marijuana is available is up to you. You cannot bring it on your river cruise, however, as the ships' contract of carriage prohibits it.