Can I fly with marijuana?

Emily Gray Brosious

May 19, 2017

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Disclaimer: This article contains information about cannabis, which is illegal under federal law as well as under state laws in some states. This article is intended to be for educational purposes only.

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(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Does TSA look for marijuana?

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Now that cannabis is legal for adult recreational use in eight states and medical use in 29 states, people are wondering if they can fly with the drug.

The short answer is no. It is still illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, and the drug remains illegal for all purposes at the federal level. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website plainly states that marijuana may not be placed in carry-on or checked baggage.

That said, the TSA does not look for marijuana when travellers pass through security lines.

According to the TSA website:

“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.

“Whether or not marijuana is considered legal under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law. Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.”

“TSA says very clearly on their website that security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. That’s not their job, right? They’re looking for safety. They’re not DEA, they’re TSA,” Joel Milton, chief executive at Baker, a Denver-based software company that works with cannabis dispensaries, told The Cannabist. “That said, obviously cannabis is still federally illegal, so you have to be careful. And you certainly don’t want to flaunt it or rub it in their face.”

In 2015, 54 million passengers passed through the Denver International Airport, and just 29 people were stopped for marijuana possession, an airport spokesman told The New York Times.

Since it’s legal for adults 21 and older to carry up to one ounce of dried cannabis flower in Colorado, local police just ask travelers to dispose of cannabis if they’re caught with it at the Denver International Airport. Of the 29 passengers found carrying marijuana at the airport in 2015, none were arrested and no tickets were issued.

The airport did not keep a record of passengers stopped with marijuana in 2016.

“The bottom line is, it’s not an issue,” airport spokesman Heath Montgomery told The New York Times.

Passengers caught with marijuana at airports in states where the drug is still illegal for all use will likely face harsher legal consequences, however. The TSA refers these matters to local law enforcement, so local cannabis laws will dictate the outcome.

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