A majority of states in the U.S. already legalized cannabis for medical purposes and there are now nine states in the U.S., plus Washington D.C., that allow recreational pot. However, when it comes to airports, things can get very tricky.
Secure areas of the airport that are beyond the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints are under the control of federal authorities, and the federal government prohibits cannabis across the country. In other words, because federal laws trump state laws, it is illegal to fly with cannabis — whether in your checked luggage or in your carry-on.
This also makes it illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, even if you travel from a state where the substance is legal to another legalized state.
However, Los Angeles International Airport has loosened its rules. It is now allowing travelers to carry the drug with them.
LAX Airport police now have a written policy telling passengers that small quantities of cannabis may now be brought into the airport. A traveler carrying no more than 28.5 grams — which is about an ounce — or 8 grams in concentrated form, will be allowed to pass through.
The written policy, however, still comes with a warning that the possession of any amount of the drug is still considered a federal crime and that TSA agents may find the stash.
What happens to a passenger if he is found carrying the drug is not clear, though.
According to TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers, agents will not take the marijuana away, but will instead call the police and let them be the one to deal with it.
In an e-mail Dankers wrote that the TSA’s focus is on security threats to passengers and to the aircraft, as well as on terrorism. She said that whether or not a passenger is permitted to travel with cannabis is up to the discretion of law enforcement.
Meanwhile, LAX airport officer Alicia Hernandez said that if it turns out that a passenger is carrying not more than the allowed quantity of of cannabis, the airport police will simply turn them loose since there is no crime.
Police, however, caution people to think twice before they embark on a weed-filled trip because cannabis rules are likely going to be different at their destination.
So far, there are a very few — if there’s any other — airports that apply the same policy as LAX when it comes to passengers carrying cannabis.
San Diego International Airport has no policy on cannabis. So at least there’s that.
In Colorado, which is one of the first American states to fully legalize cannabis, passengers are still prohibited from bringing the drug into Denver International Airport.
Denver International Airport’s spokeswoman Emily Williams revealed that very few travelers have been caught carrying cannabis in the airport and the penalty they had to face was light if it only involved a small amount.
She explained that if it is only a small amount, the Denver Police Department and the TSA will ask the passenger to dispose of the drug and if he or she is willing to part with it, they simply move through.
According to Douglas Kidd, National Association of Airline Passengers executive director, the best advice to passengers is to leave their supply at home.
He said that the first step that the TSA usually takes if they find anything illegal for federal purposes is to refer the matter to local law enforcement. And local law enforcement may decide not to do anything about it. However, he added that it could still mean delays for the passenger and could lead to that passenger missing his or her flight.