Colorado Cannabis: 'You Can't Take It With You.' Wanna Bet?



On my way back to Dallas from Denver last month, I gave a bottle of pomegranate Dixie Elixir to a couple of dudes in the hotel elevator. I had consumed just one dose out of a bottle containing seven or so, and I thought it was a shame for the rest to be wasted. At the same time, I was keen not to take the drink with me to the airport, since I figured this was just the sort of marijuana product that a TSA agent might actually notice: a container with more than three fluid ounces in it.

Not that the consequences of being caught with a small amount of cannabis at the Denver International Airport are terribly severe: The Transportation Security Administration refers such cases to DIA authorities, who at most will issue you a citation for violating the airport's pot ban. The maximum fine for a first offense is $150. In most of Colorado, there is no penalty at all for mere possession of up to an ounce, and even at the airport no one has been fined yet, according to DIA officials. Although 16 travelers have been caught with pot, the only penalty was confiscation of their souvenirs. Still, best to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment.

Apparently that thought has crossed the minds of more than a few tourists on their way out of Denver. KCNC, the local CBS station, reports that car rental agencies commonly come across discarded marijuana left by anxious travelers. "It happens pretty often," the employee of one major rental company tells the station. "Probably like four times a day. Me, I just throw it away. I don't know about the others." At another rental company an employee says the usual practice is to throw out abandoned cannabis or turn it over to a supervisor. "We try not to let it get to the car wash bay," she says, "because those guys will take it." The supervisors, by contrast, surely dispose of every last gram properly.

Judging from the numbers supplied by DIA, travelers who ditch their weed in their rental cars could have kept it with very little risk of apprehension. Recreational sales of marijuana have been legal in Colorado since January, and about 50,000 outbound passengers travel though DIA every month. That's a total of more than 300,000 passengers so far this year. If we assume that 12 percent are cannabis consumers, as suggested by national survey data, that's 36,000 people who might have bought marijuana in Colorado. Let's say 10 percent had leftovers that they took with them to the airport, inadvertently or otherwise. That would be 3,600 travelers carrying cannabis, of whom 16—less than 0.5 percent—were caught. Those are pretty good odds, especially since the worst consequence travelers have suffered so far for failing to throw out their pot before they got to the airport was having to throw it out at the airport.

"It's illegal for you to take it across state lines," a DIA spokeswoman tells KCNC, "and since we are an airport, we're not going to facilitate the transportation of marijuana illegally. We want [passengers] to discard it peacefully and carry on with their trip. When you travel and go home, you can't take it with you." The numbers suggest otherwise.

NEXT: Israel Says It's Sending Ground Troops Into Gaza

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Hmm…can I fly from Denver to SeaTac without issue? Because I should be able to, technically.

    1. Check your bags. Always check your bags if you want them to avoid scrutiny.

      1. I considered taking weed with me to Connecticut before, because it’s legal in the SeaTac part (and I would check the bags as you suggest anyway), and then who is checking at the CT end? But I didn’t because I knew I could get some there anyway and why take the risk.

      2. You mean like that time I checked 20 bottles of Westvlet and the tsa/cbp assholes opened it up and broke and fucking bottle? You mean avoid like that?

        Also, I was already 5 kilos over the limit…that fucking beer cost me some money to get home.

        1. I flew home with about $300 of fireworks in my luggage (the good kind). If I had tried to carry them on, I would probably be in jail right now.

      3. Always check your bags if you want them to avoid scrutiny.

        Yeah. Every time I fly (eight of the last eight and counting) I find one of the we-checked-your-bag flyers inside. But they’ve never pulled me aside/swabbed my hand/wanded me/anything at the scanners. Go figure.

        The hand-swabbing is what I sweat, since I’m a shooting instructor.

        1. I get that flyer every time I fly back from Denver. I have a family there so I usually travel during the holidays.

    2. With dangerous marijuana on board? Why do you hate the children?

  2. Well now that Sullum has consumed the marijuana, I guess we can’t trust any of this stories any longer, what with the reefer madness and all.

    Are there any sane writers left at Reason, ones who haven’t been tainted by the devils weed?

    1. He was, no doubt, doing research with Maureen Dowd.

  3. The supervisors, by contrast, surely dispose of every last gram properly

    Sure they do. You know what they say about ones man loss being another man’s gain? Well, I think the TSA agents and car rental employees just picked up another perk with the job. I’m happy for the good fortune of the car rental employees.

    1. I’m sure every last bit is incinerated.

      1. Unless it’s an edible, in which case it’s crushed and dissolved in acid.

  4. “It’s illegal for you to take it across state lines,” a DIA spokeswoman tells KCNC, “and since we are an airport, we’re not going to facilitate the transportation of marijuana illegally. We want [passengers] to discard it peacefully and carry on with their trip. When you travel and go home, you can’t take it with you.”

    What about flights to Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Durango and Grand Junction?

    1. And Galt’s Gulch.

  5. Speaking of which, the police and DEA are ‘operating’… thousands of dogs who will “alert” on a perfectly legal substance.

    The whole questionable concept of ‘alerting’ not withstanding, an officer can now claim a search was justified because the dog detected your deodorant, or your chocolate chip cookies, or your potting soil.

    Think about it.

  6. those edi-pure peach rings… they look EXACTLY link the cheap ass peach ring candy you can get from the dollar store. buy a bag, empty the contents and…

  7. Of 3,600 hypothetical travelers with pot, catching 1% would be 36. Catching 16 would be a little less than 0.5%. To get .05%, you need to look at the people cited compared to the people who are assumed to have maybe bought pot but not brought any on the plane. Which is a strange pair of numbers to compare.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.