Is the TSA Cool With Your Pot?

Warner BrothersWarner BrothersIf the Transportation Security Administration catches you with pot while you are flying from one jurisdiction that allows medical or recreational use of marijuana to another, you might not only escape arrest but get to keep your cannabis. Then again, you might not.

That is the conclusion of a recent Lawyers.com post by Aaron Kase, who notes that the TSA typically refers cases involving small amounts of marijuana to local police, who decide what action to take. If you are a California patient with a doctor's recommendation flying from San Francisco to L.A., or a Denver resident flying to Seattle, that could mean no action at all, since you are not violating any state laws. So although airport security is controlled by the federal government, which continues to treat marijuana as contraband, that does not mean you can never fly with pot, even when your stash is discovered. The TSA, while noting that marijuana is still prohibited by federal law, says it has no particular interest in your pot and "will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer," adding that "the final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane."

Attorney Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, tells Kase:

I hear reports from people flying from one medical use site to another or flying from one part of California to another, and they generally report that if they carry their authorization, they simply show the letter and are sent on their way and are allowed to keep their medicine. The same policy should apply Colorado to Washington or Washington to Colorado.

Should is not will, of course. Kase cautions that "not all states reciprocate medical use authorizations," while Stroup warns that "if you get the wrong TSA agent and he wants to be a pain, he can arrest you." For what it's worth, possession of cannabis in an airport does not seem to fall under any of the eight "enforcement priorities" identified by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in his August 29 memo on marijuana enforcement, provided you are not traveling to a state where marijuana is illegal.

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  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    I think we're winning this thing, but if we let the tyranny shift from pot-at-rest to pot(or intoxication)-in-transit, then it seems we have gained little, but at least it's something.

  • ||

    Hawaii needs to legalize so that I can get on the plane at SeaTac with my weed and take it to Honolulu.

    Here's a question: if you get on the plane where it is legal, and the TSA doesn't care, then when you land you just walk off even if it's not legal there, who is going to know? It's not like you have to go through security when you get off the plane.

  • np||

    Don't give them any more ideas.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Epi, you're gonna stick the drugs up your ass for the whole flight whether its legal or not. So what the hell are you complaining about?

  • ||

    It's the principle of the thing, Hugh. I want to be able to stick that weed up my ass legally.

  • playa manhattan||

    Just check your bags. It's fine as long as you aren't going through customs or agricultural inspections... (iirc, they only do the ag scan on the return flight from HI.)
    All of my friends who have been caught at the airport were stupid and had it on their person. Oh, and one tried to smuggle weed INTO Mexico, that cost him $1500 in bribes...

  • ||

    That's what I figured. Wrap it up really well, then check your bags. Shit, that's actually perfectly legal here in WA now too. So that half of it isn't even a risk. Then after landing, pick up the bags and voila.

  • playa manhattan||

    P.S. I'm planning a trip to HI this winter. It's been about 10 years for me, so I'm not sure what's nice these days. What do I need to know? I'm thinking Wailea on Maui, or Poipu on Kauai...

  • ||

    What are you looking for? I'm an Oahu guy; I love Honolulu and Waikiki and the restaurants and whatnot. Some people like to get away from it all, including other people. I've done Maui too, and I didn't really care for the resort/golf monoculture there; outside your resort, there really isn't much to do. And I know some people who like to go to the big island because it's pretty rural and quiet.

    There is a town on the windward (east) side of Oahu called Kailua (not to be confused with Kailua-Kona on the other side) which has pretty much everything you'd expect to have in Honolulu but feels much less touristy, and the beaches there have some of the softest, most powdery sand I've ever felt. I think I might stay there next time instead of Honolulu.

  • playa manhattan||

    I like to drink booze and explore (not necessarily at the same time). I'm looking at charters to Lanai and Molokai from Maui just to look around and maybe see the leper colony... I'll probably do Honolulu on the first or last day of the trip, especially if I don't get a direct flight.
    I did Kauai last time, and it was really nice. Rural, scenic, and not too touristy. On my last day there, I did a 10 mile hike on the Napili coast and ended the day body surfing at the most dangerous beach in the world...
    As long as I have an activity in the morning or afternoon, I don't mind sitting around the pool/beach and drinking for the rest of the day...

  • ||

    I do something similar in the morning/early afternoon (get some exercise, maybe see some sights) and then will usually sit on the beach drinking, reading, and swimming for the rest of the afternoon. But I prefer to do it where there are people, where there is activity, therefore explaining my preference for Waikiki over a Maui resort's beachfront. If it doesn't matter to you, then Maui will be fine.

    Oahu has stuff like Hanauma Bay, though, and there are some spectacular hikes (not my thing, but my friend who is originally from Oahu does it all the time when he goes back for a visit). In my experience, there are more things to check out on Oahu than any of the other islands.

    But if you're going to be traveling between the islands you'll have plenty of opportunity to try a bunch of stuff. If you're on Maui you might try going to Molokini Atoll which is supposed to be spectacular snorkeling (I tried to go but the boat I paid for the ticket on took a vote and the majority decided to go to Turtle Town instead...FUCK DEMOCRACY). But you can also just drive around the islands and find random coves and beaches to swim and go snorkeling on too.

  • playa manhattan||

    I missed molokini last time, which makes me want to do it even more. I am looking at the villas at Grand Wailea for a couple of days, which has daily excursions to molokini, and they will even scuba certify you in their diving pool on site. I've also heard good things about the bike trip down Haleakela, which could be one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences... 17 miles downhill from 10,000ft to sea level at freeway speeds sounds like fun to me.

    I'll probably get vetoed and have to take the kids to the Disney resort on Oahu, though...

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...one tried to smuggle weed INTO Mexico...

    Wait, what?

  • playa manhattan||

    I shit you not. On a trip to Puerto Vallarta, he thought it would be easier to bring it with him than go looking for it once we got there. We sat outside of the terminal waiting for him for 3 hours while he came to an understanding with Mexican customs.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    He probably figured it would be too hard to find it there, since he didn't know a Spanish word for Marijuana.

  • wheelock||

    I met someone at a wedding (in colorado coming from la) who had his herb discovered by tsa but was allowed to proceed as he had a permission slip. Small victories I suppose.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If the substance isn't endangering the flight, the TSA should shut its bitch mouth about it.

  • IceTrey||

    TSA agents can't arrest you.

  • SIV||

    You're right

  • Rich||

    Just give it to that 9-year-old.

    /sarc

  • GroundTruth||

    How is having some weed in one's luggage a "security" issue?

  • dantheserene||

    1. TSA screeners do not have arrest authority. They can only turn someone over to the local police.
    2. TSA is supposed to be focused on weapons, intermediaries, and explosives--things that threaten the airport/aircraft.

  • dantheserene||

    Damn Kindle changed the plural of "incendiary", even though I spelled the whole word out.

  • some guy||

    Ok, but what happens if you are flying from Denver to Seattle but something forces your plane to land in, say, Salt Lake City or Boise? Do you chuck your stash before you get off the plane?

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