Each year, more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. As the use of pot continues to gain acceptance around the country, the skydiving community needs to be aware that it may lead to some issues with students, licensed jumpers and instructional rating holders.
Drop zones located in states with legalized marijuana need to be extra vigilant to ensure that students are aware of the rules against jumping under the influence. Recently, a drop zone manager discovered a tandem student who was waiting to make his first jump smoking marijuana just outside of the manifest building. When the manager confronted the student, he responded, “What’s the problem? It’s legal now.” Obviously, the student wasn’t bothered by the idea of skydiving while stoned and either didn’t know or didn’t care about the Federal Aviation Regulations that prohibit any person from making a skydive while under the influence. FAR 105.7 states the following:
“No person may conduct a parachute operation, and no pilot in command of an aircraft may allow a person to conduct a parachute operation from that aircraft, if that person is or appears to be under the influence of—
(a) Alcohol, or
(b) Any drug that affects that person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety.”
It is not just skydiving students who need to be reminded about the rules regarding alcohol and drugs. Just about any recreational activity has a drug subculture, and skydiving is no exception. While perhaps more visible in the ’70s and ’80s, it is still there lurking in the background at some drop zones when the sun goes down and the bonfire lights up. However, the clear guidance in FAR 105.7 does not change just because state and federal legislators are debating the benefits and drawbacks of legalized marijuana: It is still illegal to skydive while under the influence.
Additionally, tandem instructors must hold a Federal Aviation Administration Third-Class Medical Certificate, which requires reporting of any convictions for driving under the influence and any drug use—legal or illegal—since the last renewal. Other rating disciplines don’t require an FAA Medical, but it is still wise for every rating holder to hold themselves to a higher standard to help maintain the highest level of safety, better protect the drop zone legally and avoid any potential problems while dealing with skydiving students.
Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training