It may be fine to fly high but make sure that you don’t come crashing down to earth! It’s summer vacation time and now that recreational marijuana is legal in several U.S. states, thousands of holidaymakers are asking whether or not they can travel with marijuana either in the air or on the road.
It is NEVER legal to fly with weed because airports fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction and, as we all know, they don’t take kindly to cannabis because it remains as a fed-listed Schedule I drug.
No one can blame Americans, or visitors to the country for that matter, for becoming confused when it comes to what is and what isn’t legally permissible. That’s because there are too many fingers in the marijuana-pie. Rules and regulations surrounding legal pot have different interpretations in different states and then, to add to the confusion, you have the government with its hard-nosed attitude to weed clouding the issue.
The strong-arm of the law at airport checkpoints
So, the strong-arm of the law could spring into action at airport security checkpoints in any of the legal recreational pot states which are Alaska, California, Colorado,Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermontand Washington.
Airports are controlled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and a spokesperson, Lorie Dankers, says that the main goal of their officers is to ensure aviation and passenger security. Weapon detection, explosives or any other perceived threats is the priority of the TSA and should any of its officers discover weed or other illegal drugs during security screenings of hand-held or checked-in baggage, their instructions are to alert the local airport’s law enforcement personnel.
Dankers says the TSA will respond in the same manner at every airport in every state, irrespective of whether or not marijuana has been legalized in the area where the incident occurs.
Legal action is unlikely
However, despite all the hoo-haw, a closer look at the attitude of law enforcement officials boils down to the fact that provided you are not carrying more pot than the permitted legal limit, you probably won’t face any legal action.
This go-easy attitude has been adopted at most of California’s commercial airports where nothing much really happens if law enforcement officers are alerted to passengers in possession of marijuana.
The Los Angeles Airport Police say that it isn’t a crime to be in possession of marijuana, whether it’s for medical or recreational purposes, provided that the amount is within the state’s legal limits. The LA Airport Police operates at LA’s International Airport, as well as at several other airports in Southern California.
The same policing protocol is adopted at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County where the bureau chief of the airport’s police services, Lieutenant Mark Gonzales, says that should his officers be called to deal with marijuana-carrying passengers at the checkpoints, they would simply stand-by until the passengers decided what to do with their pot provided the amounts do not exceed the legal limits. Gonzales confirmed that the TSA has yet to call upon his department to deal with this type of incident.
Generally, passengers would be given four different options:
- Throwing their stash into a trash bin
- Depositing the weed in a locked amnesty box (where available)
- Handing their stash to a friend in the terminal
- Putting their weed into their car
Marijuana and airport signage
Last November a Canadian marijuana company came up with an ingenious advertising campaign at the Ontario International Airport. Trays at the airport carried the company’s wording – “Cannabis is legal, traveling with it is not. Leave it in California” – but the company was forced to stop the campaign after one month.
Currently, there are no pot-related checkpoint tray ads, amnesty disposal bins or marijuana signage at most Californian airports, unlike Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe International Airport which displays no pot-smoking signs in its designated smoking areas.
Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport has also adopted a sterner stand with its marijuana policy, banning possession and all signage throughout the airport. It plans to install amnesty boxes at key points outside the airport buildings, including car rental locations. This phase of their weed-policing method will start in August.
And in Colorado, despite it being the first state nationwide to legalize recreational pot in 2014, the Denver International Airport has placed a blanket ban on marijuana anywhere on the airport’s property.
If you are planning a trip, whether by air or by road, erring on the side of caution will probably be your best bet.
While it is evident that policing airport checkpoints is more focused on passenger and aviation safety, the uncertainty about the attitude of law enforcement officers endorses a more cautious approach.
Road travelers could also experience problems at border crossings, even if their stash was bought in a legal state and they are entering another state that has legalized marijuana.