Technically, You Can Get Arrested for Flying with Weed, But Here Is Why You Won’t Get Cuffed and Stuffed at the Airport
The holiday season is here again and what better way to celebrate than with family and friends. This is why many Americans travel long distances during the holiday season and AAA estimates that over 113 million Americans always do so. With cannabis acceptance gradually growing and more states legalizing adult use of the natural herb, it has since become an essential item on most people’s lists as they travel. Cannabis is still illegal federally in the U.S. but there might be a loophole for people who wish to fly with weed.
The Travel Security Administration (TSA) as an institution of the federal government is required to operate under federal laws and policies. This means that even though cannabis is legal across different states in the U.S., it is still classified as illegal federally. Therefore, operators of the TSA are likely to flag people in possession of cannabis on flights as offenders.
There is however a loophole in this approach that many are yet to make the most of. The TSA website explains what is applicable under federal law regarding marijuana and other cannabis-infused products. It explains that only products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis are approved by the FDA and are therefore legal. This means the TSA is not specifically out to confiscate every small amount of weed they see and they have continued to reiterate this over time. The TSA is specifically designed to operate using screening procedures that will help in detecting threats to passengers.
This explains why many cannabis enthusiasts and users can actively give testimonies that they travelled with a small amount of cannabis without any issues. It has since been propagated in some quarters in the cannabis world that travelling with cannabis is legal. Well, let’s just state clearly here that it isn’t but the TSA has shown that it is willing to look the other way most times as that is not what they are actively after.
The state and type of the product being carried also matter. For CBD products, they must contain no more than 0.3 percent of THC which is what is approved by the FDA. For cannabis-infused foods and drinks, they must comply with the carry-on policy of the TSA which is specifically expressed on their website. Liquids for instance are required to contain 3.4 ounces or less per item
The operating procedure of the TSA requires it to refer matters of discovery of illegal substances during screening to law enforcement officers. This has been their protocol as reiterated by Lorie Dankers, spokesperson of the TSA. She explains that the TSA regularly hands over such cases to Airport Law enforcement when marijuana is discovered during the screening of baggage. She stated this in an email to Lester Black of SFGATE while commenting on how the TSA handles the discovery of marijuana during its screening process.
The law enforcement officials once the case has been handed over to them then have sole authority on what will be done. Depending on the amount of weed discovered, it is possible that the officials commence a criminal investigation and take secondary steps on the matter. However, this only applies when the passenger is carrying a large amount of weed which is beyond what can be used personally. This is indicative of a move to sell through the grey market and is more likely to propel the officials to initiate a criminal investigation.
Many cannabis users have always argued that since they are travelling from and to states with legalized cannabis laws, they should be allowed to carry it while travelling. We have explained earlier why this is not possible as the TSA is a federal agency enforcing federal laws. The spokesperson of the TSA Alexa Lopez, recently explained that if a passenger is found in a state where marijuana is legal, such a person will be allowed to dispose of it. This means that irrespective of the status of cannabis laws where you are heading to and coming from, getting it beyond the checkpoint is still at the mercy of the TSA officials.
It is therefore important that one is familiar with the laws in the state you are leaving or heading to as it could determine what reception to expect. Though cannabis laws are actively changing by the day, it is still very easy to determine which states have active medical or recreational marijuana programs.
Medical marijuana has expanded massively over the last couple of years with many states adopting the program and patients likewise. This has changed the view of many people on marijuana massively and is likely to get a different response in the eyes of the law. Many patients have a medical marijuana ID card to show that the weed is for medicinal purposes and such persons may be shown more leniency compared to others.
While the TSA doesn’t have jurisdiction to check the validity of medical marijuana cards, such is likely passed off to the local police to assess. Depending on the state and the existing cannabis laws therein, the medical marijuana card could earn you a waiver or it could mean absolutely nothing.
The summary of all things is that as long as cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the FDA, it is still illegal to carry it through security while travelling. However, carrying a small amount of cannabis while travelling is something that the federal government will not be willing to expend its resources to enforce. What this means is that the lesser the amount of weed you take with you while travelling, the lesser your chances of facing hiccups. Therefore, it is advisable to be sure you fall within these lines of operation when next you decide to travel with a part of your weed stash on you.