Snail mail delivered my merchant marine credential last week, just a blink of the government eye after the initial renewal paperwork was sent in on Nov. 4 of the last decade.
This quinquennial quest has been a requirement for guiding on Rock River for almost 20 years now. The Rock is considered navigable water by the U.S. Coast Guard, which requires certification as a merchant marine captain to launch a boat for hire on this daunting waterbody.
My credential wasn’t up for renewal until the end of March. Experience from this paper chase over the past three cycles taught the wisdom of starting at least three months prior when going for a new “ticket.”
Even Martha Stewart can tell you about consequences of lying to the government—unless you work for the government, of course.
A medical form is part of extensive documentation in completing the licensure process. One small part of this form is listing medications including “multivitamins and other OTC” items. I made the mistake of listing CBD oil for osteoarthritis in both shoulders in the same column with a baby aspirin and Flintstones chewable vitamin.
Osteoarthritis wasn’t an issue at license renewal time five years ago. Even if perpetually sore shoulders from 8,500 days on the water weren’t a factor, the wonders of CBD products were virtually unknown here in Wisconsin.
CBD oil isn’t supposed to contain THC, the stuff which can alter reality. CBD is available over the counter—just like ibuprofen or Aleve, two other totally legal analgesics.
Even though these OTC products are harder on your gut than CBD they are a better alternative to a short lasting steroid injection in the shoulder—and even the doctor’s preferred solution: two total shoulder replacement surgeries.
CBD oil marketed by CV Sciences brought nearly instant and profound pain relief from the time I started taking it last March up until November, when a letter from the USCG arrived indicating admission of taking this totally legal, natural, effective OTC pain medication was an “unequivocal disqualifier” for credential renewal.
A DOT Panel 5 drug test form is part of the hefty packet which must be submitted to the USCG. This is separate from the medical form which demands successful completion of a complete physical—including hearing and vision testing.
Before driving to town to take the DOT drug test, I had the usual cup of coffee to wash down the handful of health maintenance pills, followed by 15 drops of CBD oil under the tongue. The test came back negative for THC and other mind altering drugs.
My only mistake was telling the truth on the medical form. Jumping through hoops to provide “amplified information” about CBD use was responsible for the glacial pace of receiving the mariner’s credential.
This provided ample time to discover laws passed early in the last century clearly differentiated between hemp and THC containing cannabis. Contacting my senator produced a letter saying S.1276, the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act had been introduced by Sen. Feinstein (D) and Sen. Grassley (R) back on May 25, 2017, and been forwarded to the Judiciary Committee for review.
A Google search revealed this bill is still languishing in committee, with a “sunset” date next year. Failure to act before this sunset will cause the bill to evaporate. The USCG takes its marching orders from Congress.
Times have changed since the government started requiring USCG licensure to work as a fishing guide on Rock River. Cannabis is now legal for medical use in 30 states. States have approved it for recreational use in 11 states, including our neighbor to the south, Illinois.
Although CBD products come from the Cannabis plant, CBD is legally recognized as hemp by every entity except the DOT, and by proxy the USCG.
What does this have to do with fishing? A great deal as years on the water pass by. Pain is a part of aging. CBD assuages the pain. To some folks, fishing is the definition of “pursuit of happiness.”
When it comes to a choice of guiding folks on Rock River—or work which requires a CDL—the God-given choice to pursue happiness is the only course to steer.
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at email@example.com