Originally published on April 3rd, 2017
The airport is probably the last place you would consider bringing cannabis. But this isn’t the 90s and people do it. New laws have made it exponentially safer to travel green without facing intense scrutiny by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and their crew of curious sniffer dogs that can’t get enough of that sweet-smelling herb.
While cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, state laws are available to protect you (to a certain extent) at the airport. With that being said, it is important to understand these guidelines, which vary from state-to-state, as the success of your trip through the airport would literally depend on it.
Stick to Carry-on Luggage
For those interested in bringing cannabis on the plane, it is reassuring to know that statistically, not a lot of people have been caught in airports located in states with legal cannabis laws.
According to a report from the Associated Press, 29 people were stopped at Denver airport for boarding planes with cannabis in 2014. In all cases, no citations were issued by law enforcement. Moreover, the travelers were simply asked to dispose their stash prior to boarding the flight, and no one was arrested.
The first rule of traveling with cannabis is: store it in your carry-on luggage. Don’t forget to use a smell-proof container to avoid issues with lingering, pungent odors. Furthermore, keep calm with the notion that you’re not “smuggling” an illegal substance or trying to sneak anything through the airport. This mindset can be difficult to shake off at first – especially if it’s your first time. Act casual and if you get stopped by security, show them your valid medical card (not applicable to states with recreational laws).
Packing your stash in checked luggage may seem like a safer option, but it’s not. Your checked bags are still subject to searches and TSA agents reserve the right to remove items in your luggage that look suspicious, from liquid bleach to a box of dynamite; or in this case, a container of cannabis. Upon opening your luggage at your destination, you may find a friendly note, indicating your bag was searched, and your stash possibly missing (bummer).
Keeping it Legal
Keep in mind that it is never legal to fly out of a legal state with cannabis, period. The regulations set forth in the Cole Memorandum, the eight federal guidelines for marijuana enforcement, dictate that marijuana from a legal state cannot be carried out of it. However, if you’re going to do it and want to avoid getting passed over to law enforcement (TSA agents don’t specifically check for cannabis, but if they encounter it and the stash looks suspicious, you’ll be directed to local authorities), it is highly recommended to only bring small amounts for personal consumption. Stick to legal limits in both the state you’re flying out of and the state you’re flying into.
If you’re flying out of a state where cannabis is prohibited, the risk of going through the airport with your stash is monumentally higher (note: not recommended). From a legal perspective, you could get in all sorts of trouble with the law – even if you’re holding a valid medical card in the state you’re traveling to or in any other state where the plant is legal.
Security agents and local authorities in such locations are not as open-minded about cannabis possession; compared to states with recreational laws, like Colorado, where police would likely ask you to throw your stash away before boarding the flight.