If you’re someone who enjoys Cannabis, needs it for medical reasons, or recently visited a place where recreational marijuana is legal, we’re guessing you’ve wondered if you’re allowed to travel on a plane with marijuana or not.
This is an age-old question that has ruined many a vacay and put a lot of travelers in the hot seat (cavity search anyone?). The legal landscape on this topic is confusing, to say the least, but, we’d like to clarify the rules and regulations as best as we can for you.
Let’s start with the bad news: according to federal law, marijuana is still an illegal narcotic (get with the program guys). Once you pass the security checkpoint of an airport, federal law enforcement takes over (the TSA).
That said, there are a lot of disclaimers and ‘wink-wink’ type of verbiage from the TSA, making it clear that catching people with small amounts of weed is not a top priority, and that any legal ramifications are up to local law agencies.
The exact TSA language says, “Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA.” (NOTE: This means CBD products derived from the hemp plant that fall into this category are now legal for travel. How they know which oil is which, is another point of perplexity). The page continues, “The goal of a TSA officer is to ensure that no explosive or harmful device passes through the security checkpoint.”
In other words, they’re trying to find weapons, not cannabis. So, unless you’ve fashioned a ‘bong of mass destruction,’ they’re not really ‘looking’ for you.
The agency also states, “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,” adding, “TSA officers at airport checkpoints do not have the authority to arrest any passenger, regardless of the situation.”
The TSA is clearly saying that they’re not specifically looking for small amounts of marijuana, but if they find it, while they cannot make an arrest, they may (or may not) call local law agencies. Keep in mind as well, that international travel is an entirely different ball game, as different countries have different laws. For example, you could likely receive up to 15 years in an Indonesian prison for just having an oil cartridge like this unfortunate gentleman (sheeeesh). But as we all know, you can’t stop progress – more and more countries like Thailand with traditionally harsh cannabis laws, are even beginning to lighten up.
Local Law Agencies
So that leaves us with the question – assuming you’re in the U.S., what happens if they DO call local law agencies? Well, if you’re in a state that allows recreational marijuana like Colorado or California (applause), or a state that allows medicinal marijuana and you have a card, like Florida (give it up for our home state), law enforcement will likely force you to dispose of the product. Some states even provide ‘receptacles’ to dispose of your weed before you pass through security. Keep in mind, though, that an arrest can be made in these states.
And if you’re in a state where marijuana is REALLY illegal like Kansas (not even hemp-based CBD), you could be in some serious trouble.
New Rules at LAX
Just to make things a bit more confusing, LAX recently updated its own policy, saying, “As of January 1, 2018, California law allows for individuals 21 years of age or older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana for personal consumption. With the change in state law, the policy and procedures of the Los Angeles Airport Police Division (APD) regarding marijuana were updated to reflect this change. APD officers, who are
California Peace Officers, have no jurisdiction to arrest individuals if they are complying with state law. However, airport guests should be aware that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening stations are under federal jurisdiction.”
So, that clears that up (???).
Here is the bottom line on legalities: the safest bet when flying is not to travel with Cannabis. That said, if you absolutely need it for medical reasons, forgot that you have it on you, or decide to risk it, you’ll likely not face severe consequences if you’re in one of the states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal (this page offers a great breakdown of exactly what is legal, where). But…you could be arrested no matter what, so there is that.
Your best bet is to buy legal Cannabis when you arrive at your destination. ”Be right back kids, mommy and daddy need to get some, um, groceries.”
Canada just legalized recreational marijuana across the country, while Puerto Rico passed The Medical Act 42-2017, which permits dispensaries to serve patients with medical cards from their home state. So, if you have a Florida medical marijuana card, you can buy in Puerto Rico. In fact, Fluent now has dispensaries in both San Juan and Guaynabo.
We will update this page as laws change and will be posting many stories to come about Cana-friendly travel and marijuana tourism, so be sure to follow our travel tag if this topic interests you!
image credit: Getty, Inside Creative House