The legalities surrounding marijuana have been a contentious topic over the past few years. At present, there are many contradictions between state and federal laws that cause much confusion and uncertainty over whether or not it’s legal to consume cannabis, both medically and recreationally.
As you can imagine, matters get even more complicated when talking about whether or not you can take marijuana on a plane. Common sense might suggest that such an act would be prohibited, considering the current scheduling of cannabis at the federal level. However, you might be surprised to learn there are a few interesting “exceptions.” Let’s dive into it.
The Law in General
To give a brief overview, cannabis is currently listed as a schedule 1 drug on the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). For many people, this rating comes across as rather unjust, especially when you consider the other drugs that keep it company in the same bracket such as, heroin, LSD, and meth. However, and as you probably already are aware, cannabis is now legal for both medical and recreational use in quite a few US States, yet of course, this is only State law. And thus, the confusion begins.
One interesting thing to note is that certain cannabis strains are permitted in all 50 US states, just as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. Anyway, back to the airplanes.
What are the TSA rules around taking marijuana on planes?
It’s well known that cities own the airports, which is why some people assume it is the state laws that govern the airport as the overriding authority. Unfortunately, that’s incorrect.
When it comes to aviation and airport security, the federal law supersedes the States, which means that cannabis becomes illegal on a federal level (and a schedule 1 offense at that), the moment you show a transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent your boarding pass.
But, here’s the thing, the TSA agents are not looking out for cannabis. Their primary focus is on ensuring passenger and plane safety, as they attempt to discover items that pose an immediate threat.
Here is an official statement directly from the TSA.gov website:
“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
This is where things get a little interesting. The statement mentions that TSA offices will not search for marijuana in passenger bags. Still, if they happen to stumble across it, they must report it to the local law enforcement. At this point, it depends on how the local officers handle your situation. They will likely consider several things before deciding whether or not to let you go free or arrest you, such as the quantity of weed you have, the state law, and your destination.
The Amnesty Box
Cannabis amnesty boxes are now present in most states that have legalized cannabis use (both medically and recreationally). These boxes are put in place so passengers can dispose of their cannabis before boarding their flight without the risk of any repercussions.
Suppose you take marijuana for a medical condition and can present a valid medical marijuana card from a doctor. In that case, there is a small chance you will be waived through security, but this is pretty unlikely. With that said, it’s worth asking before disposing of your cannabis in the amnesty box.
What About the Legal Marijuana States ?
As we mentioned earlier, whether or not you can take your marijuana on a plane depends mostly on whether or not you can get it past the agents. However, if you’re caught, the agents must contact the local law enforcement, who will decide on what to do with your particular case.
The varying state laws combined with the severity of the federal law make it very hard to give a straightforward answer to this one, so it depends on each circumstance.
However, as a rule of thumb, it is highly advised that you refrain from traveling with marijuana in a state that hasn’t legalized it. The chances of getting discovered and reprimanded are considerably higher, and the consequences you face as a result may be harsh.
Now, there are a few notable exceptions that we should mention here. Firstly, Los Angeles International Airport has a very lenient stance on traveling with weed as the Los Angeles Airport Police Division (LAPD) officers have no jurisdiction to arrest anyone that is in possession of cannabis. Of course, you must be carrying less than the 28.5 grams that’s quoted in the state law. These same rules apply to other airports that are under the LAPD jurisdiction as well.
Interestingly, Seattle-Tacoma Airport also allows passengers to carry weed up to the state’s legal limit. In contrast, airports like Boston’s Logan airport have decided to make no official statement, making it somewhat of a gray area.
Nevertheless, just because LAX and Seattle-Tacoma airports allow passengers to carry up to the legal state limit, it doesn’t mean that the TSA agents will not stop you and contact the authorities. The only difference is that you will usually get waived through, just as long as you carry a legal quantity.
Can Airport Security Confiscate Your Weed?
If one of the TSA agents discovers weed on your person or in your luggage, there is a high chance that it will be confiscated from you. Unless the airport has clearly stated they allow possession up to a certain amount.
Although, in most cases, you will be asked to drop it in the amnesty box so you can get along with your day; otherwise the local authorities may be called in to deal with it.
So, should you try and take marijuana on a plane? It all depends on what your appetite for risk is like. Even if you’re traveling in a state where weed is legal, it is still a federal offense to carry illicit drugs while crossing state borders (which you will almost certainly be doing while flying).
Rebecca Akers is an enthusiastic and creative writer at THC Design. Her main goal is to spread information about growing cannabis and its health benefits.