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§ 1903. Manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to manufacture or distribute controlled substances on board vessels

(a) Vessels of United States or vessels subject to jurisdiction of United States
It is unlawful for any person on board a vessel of the United States, or on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, or who is a citizen of the United States or a resident alien of the United States on board any vessel, to knowingly or intentionally manufacture or distribute, or to possess with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance.
(b) “Vessel of the United States” defined
For purposes of this section, a “vessel of the United States” means—
(1) a vessel documented under chapter 121 of title 46 or a vessel numbered as provided in chapter 123 of that title;
(2) a vessel owned in whole or part by—
(A) the United States or a territory, commonwealth, or possession of the United States;
(B) a State or political subdivision thereof;
(C) a citizen or national of the United States; or
(D) a corporation created under the laws of the United States or any State, the District of Columbia, or any territory, commonwealth, or possession of the United States;
unless the vessel has been granted the nationality of a foreign nation in accordance with article 5 of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas and a claim of nationality or registry for the vessel is made by the master or individual in charge at the time of the enforcement action by an officer or employee of the United States authorized to enforce applicable provisions of United States law; and
(3) a vessel that was once documented under the laws of the United States and, in violation of the laws of the United States, was either sold to a person not a citizen of the United States or placed under foreign registry or a foreign flag, whether or not the vessel has been granted the nationality of a foreign nation.
(c) “Vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” and “vessel without nationality” defined; claim of nationality or registry
(1) For purposes of this section, a “vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” includes—
(A) a vessel without nationality;
(B) a vessel assimilated to a vessel without nationality, in accordance with paragraph (2) of article 6 of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas;
(C) a vessel registered in a foreign nation where the flag nation has consented or waived objection to the enforcement of United States law by the United States;
(D) a vessel located within the customs waters of the United States;
(E) a vessel located in the territorial waters of another nation, where the nation consents to the enforcement of United States law by the United States; and
(F) a vessel located in the contiguous zone of the United States, as defined in Presidential Proclamation 7219 of September 2, 1999, and
(i) is entering the United States,
(ii) has departed the United States, or
(iii) is a hovering vessel as defined in section 1401 of title 19.
Consent or waiver of objection by a foreign nation to the enforcement of United States law by the United States under subparagraph (C) or (E) of this paragraph may be obtained by radio, telephone, or similar oral or electronic means, and is conclusively proved by certification of the Secretary of State or the Secretary’s designee.
(2) For purposes of this section, a “vessel without nationality” includes—
(A) a vessel aboard which the master or person in charge makes a claim of registry, which claim is denied by the flag nation whose registry is claimed;
(B) any vessel aboard which the master or person in charge fails, upon request of an officer of the United States empowered to enforce applicable provisions of United States law, to make a claim of nationality or registry for that vessel; and
(C) a vessel aboard which the master or person in charge makes a claim of registry and the claimed nation of registry does not affirmatively and unequivocally assert that the vessel is of its nationality.
A claim of registry under subparagraph (A) or (C) may be verified or denied by radio, telephone, or similar oral or electronic means. The denial of such claim of registry by the claimed flag nation is conclusively proved by certification of the Secretary of State or the Secretary’s designee.
(3) For purposes of this section, a claim of nationality or registry only includes:
(A) possession on board the vessel and production of documents evidencing the vessel’s nationality in accordance with article 5 of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas;
(B) flying its flag nation’s ensign or flag; or
(C) a verbal claim of nationality or registry by the master or person in charge of the vessel.
(d) Claim of failure to comply with international law; standing; jurisdiction of court
Any person charged with a violation of this section shall not have standing to raise the claim of failure to comply with international law as a basis for a defense. A claim of failure to comply with international law in the enforcement of this chapter may be invoked solely by a foreign nation, and a failure to comply with international law shall not divest a court of jurisdiction or otherwise constitute a defense to any proceeding under this chapter.
(e) Exception; burden of proof
This section does not apply to a common or contract carrier or an employee thereof, who possesses or distributes a controlled substance in the lawful and usual course of the carrier’s business or to a public vessel of the United States, or any person on board such a vessel who possesses or distributes a controlled substance in the lawful course of such person’s duties, if the controlled substance is a part of the cargo entered in the vessel’s manifest and is intended to be lawfully imported into the country of destination for scientific, medical, or other legitimate purposes. It shall not be necessary for the United States to negative the exception set forth in this subsection in any complaint, information, indictment, or other pleading or in any trial or other proceeding. The burden of going forward with the evidence with respect to this exception is upon the person claiming its benefit.
(f) Jurisdiction and venue
Any person who violates this section shall be tried in the United States district court at the point of entry where that person enters the United States, or in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia. Jurisdiction of the United States with respect to vessels subject to this chapter is not an element of any offense. All jurisdictional issues arising under this chapter are preliminary questions of law to be determined solely by the trial judge.
(g) Penalties
(1) Any person who commits an offense defined in this section shall be punished in accordance with the penalties set forth in section 1010 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 960).
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1) of this subsection, any person convicted of an offense under this chapter shall be punished in accordance with the penalties set forth in section 1012 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 962) if such offense is a second or subsequent offense as defined in section 1012(b) of that Act.
(h) Extension beyond territorial jurisdiction of United States
This section is intended to reach acts of possession, manufacture, or distribution committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
(i) Definitions of drug abuse terms
The definitions in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 802) apply to terms used in this chapter.
(j) Attempt or conspiracy to commit offense
Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this chapter shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.

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