Flying With Weed: TSA Marijuana Rules Explained

Flying With Weed: TSA Marijuana Rules Explained

Flying on a plane with cannabis can be a sticky situation. (smileitsmccheeze / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

As those with an affinity for marijuana – or pop culture aficionados – can tell you, April 20, or 4/20, might as well be a national holiday.

That’s the day cannabis lovers celebrate the legendary weed. Legend has it that the most plausible historical origin of 4/20 came from the 1970s, when a group of California teenage buddies met each day at 4:20 p.m. to smoke marijuana, with the ritual soon spreading from there and the time stamp simply evolving to 4/20.

Of course, what was taboo 50 years ago is more accepted today. Medical marijuana dispensaries are nationwide, and most states have relaxed their laws on how much recreational marijuana a person can have.

Ah, but can you fly with it? (And by fly we mean literally, on an airplane, not metaphorically.)

The short answer is, no. And, at the same time, sort of.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, “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. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities.”

There’s your hard no. Marijuana is still illegal to fly with.

However…

“TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, 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.”

There’s your ‘sort of.’

It’s a risk you, as a passenger, will have to take. The TSA takes jurisdiction over airline policy when it comes to marijuana and will refer you to the proper authorities if they find it.

If they find it being the key phrase.

For instance, when the state of New York last year legalized the recreational possession of up to three ounces of cannabis, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein admitted the strange dichotomy of the interpretation of the law. Farbstein said TSA officers aren’t looking for marijuana, but have a legal duty to report it if they find more than three ounces of the stuff.

“There has been no change in the way that TSA handles marijuana or other drugs that TSA officers come across when they are performing their security duties,” Farbstein told Gotham Magazine.

Benjamin Branham, a spokesman for the Port Authority, which operates John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City, said:

“New Yorkers 21 years old and older can possess, obtain and transport up to three ounces of cannabis. Therefore, PAPD does not issue tickets, seize or arrest for this amount at New York airports.”

Another point to consider is where you are traveling to as a final destination. While society might be more accepting of limited marijuana use, only 18 states – less than half – have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

So while you might think you’ve dodged a bullet by getting your stash past the TSA checkpoint, you still might have to deal with state laws depending on where you arrive.

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