Proceedings Of The Marine

WIN 2015

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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41 Winter 2015–2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings Prescription Drug Abuse on the Water A growing problem. by Lt saRah e. BRennan Marine Investigator U.S. Coast Guard Suspension & Revocation National Center of Expertise CDR ChRistoPheR F. Coutu Chief U.S. Coast Guard Suspension & Revocation National Center of Expertise Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise When a mariner uses dangerous drugs, Congress requires the Coast Guard to initiate suspension and revocation (S&R) proceedings against his or her merchant mariner credential (MMC). This authorizing statute states that the MMC shall be revoked unless the mariner provides satisfactory proof that he or she is "cured" of any addiction or current use. 1 The authority is broad for a reason. Whether a mariner has a history of using drugs on or off the water, while on-duty or not, Congress means business when it comes to its vision of removing all drug users from the water. The Coast Guard must only prove the mariner held a merchant mari- ner credential at the time of the drug use — not that the drug use occurred while the mariner was working. Hence, at an S&R hearing, the Coast Guard must only prove the mariner held an MMC at the time of the drug use — not that the drug use occurred while the mariner was working or "acting under the authority of the credential," in S&R par- lance. More simply put, drug use off the water is as action- able as drug use on the water. It's true: An individual who holds a merchant mariner cre- dential is held to a higher professional standard than other nonlicensed professions, and is expected not to engage in any illicit activity involving illegal drugs at any time, whether on a vessel or on shore leave. The Coast Guard's Authority to Test The reason for the strict rule is simple: Drug use is not con- sistent with marine safety. Using drugs off the water is an indicator of drug use on the water, and Congress will not accept that risk. However, the statute does not apply to pre- scription drugs. 2 But while the use of a prescription drug is not inherently illegal, using any controlled prescription Robtek / iStock / Thinkstock

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