Go Ahead and Pack Your Weed This Thanksgiving—the TSA Probably Won't Find It

The TSA's policy is to report any weed they find to local law enforcement. But they'll have to notice it first.



The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says this Thanksgiving season could be its busiest on record. More than 25 million people will board flights, the agency expects—an increase of 7 percent from 2017.

With that in mind, the agency wants to make sure passengers know ahead of time what they can and cannot take through security. Turkeys are fine (as long as they're frozen), as are pies and even vegetable peelers. Banned items include the usual suspects: pocket knives, firearms, explosives, more than 3.4 ounces of most gels and liquids, etc.

Whether or not TSA agents will actually find such items in your carry-on luggage is another question. A survey from Stratos Jets, a company that coordinates private plane charters, suggests the answer is probably no.

Stratos says it "surveyed 1,001 travelers who admitted to smuggling some type of illicit substance or prohibited item onto a plane." On domestic flights, 87.7 percent were not caught. The success rate for travelers flying internationally was slightly lower, at 80.4 percent.

So what were these passengers trying to "smuggle"? A lot of weed, apparently: "Of those surveyed, 36.7 percent of men and 22.8 percent of women reported bringing marijuana on a flight in defiance of the law."

It's not necessarily illegal to bring pot onto a plane if you're boarding in a place where recreational marijuana is permitted. Los Angeles International Airport, for example, allows anyone 21 and over to carry limited amounts of weed. But since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the TSA's policy is to report any weed they find to local law enforcement, even if there's nothing police can do about it.

If the TSA can find it. Of the people who admitted to bringing cannabis on their flight, just 42.9 percent of men and 25.7 percent of women reported being caught by TSA, airport, or airline personnel. Edibles are the easiest to bring aboard (78.5 percent of people who tried to smuggle them weren't caught), followed by buds/leaves (68.8 percent).

After marijuana, the most common unauthorized items people confessed to smuggling were prescription drugs and weapons/ammunition. Just over 25 percent of women and 19 percent of men said they brought prescription drugs aboard when they weren't supposed to. Meanwhile, 8.5 percent of women and 15.2 percent of men admitted to smuggling weapons or ammunition.

Travelers reported using a variety of methods to smuggle unauthorized items. Of those trying to bring weed aboard, 32.6 percent tried using a checked bag to do so. Another 34.9 percent put it in their carry-on, while 21.9 percent placed it inside their shoes or some other article of clothing.

For unauthorized prescription drugs, 28.8 percent of people used their checked bag, 56.6 percent used their carry-on, and 10 percent used their clothes. Nearly 49 percent of those bringing weapons or ammunition aboard seemed to prefer keeping those items in their carry-on as well, compared to 38.8 percent who checked them and 14 percent who kept those items on their person.

This shouldn't be surprising. The TSA is supposed to stop people from bringing dangerous items aboard flights, but we've known for a while that the agency is pretty inept when it comes to evaluating risk. In practical terms, this often means agents will make a big fuss about things like breast milk and bullet-shaped ice cubes while missing actual bombs. As Reason's Christian Britschgi explained in September:

Time and time again investigations from the TSA's own watchdogs have exposed the agency for the sham security it provides. In 2015, the TSA sent undercover agents through airport security checkpoints carrying fake weapons, knives, and explosives. TSA security personnel managed to miss 95 percent of these items. Similar tests two years later found a failure rate of at least 70 percent, and possibly higher than 80 percent.

But if Stratos' survey results are to be believed, the TSA's inability to flag prohibited items isn't always a bad thing. So if you're really dreading that visit to the in-laws this Thanksgiving, go ahead and bring your weed with you. The TSA probably won't find it anyway.

(That is not legal advice. Do not sue me.)

Bonus link: There are many reasons to hate the TSA. But the needless groping probably takes the cake:

NEXT: AMA Decries the Impact of the CDC's Opioid Guidelines on Pain Treatment

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Go Ahead and Pack Your Weed This Thanksgiving

    But if they do… enjoy prison. Your move.

  2. Well punk, do ya feel lucky?

  3. If you’re flying home for the holidays, and you’re sharing a table with Trump supporters, then you’re part of the problem. Pot or no pot, you’re a collaborator who tolerates treason.

      1. Naw, Artie has been around for a long time so he/she/it decided to change from Reverend to Pastor or it’s his/hers/its alter-ego parody account.

        1. I’n not so sure. It lacks the idiotic “reverend’s” uniquely obnoxious stylings.

    1. So then, pack a weapon?

    2. Correction Arty, if you’re a progressive, you’re a traitor. Period.

      Please submit yourself for immediate execution. Or better yet, commit suicide.

    3. YOU’RE a collaborator who tolerates treason!

  4. Or just buy some when you land. Really isn’t to hard to find someone to sell you pot from my experience.

  5. It takes 20 minutes to get to my uncle’s estate where we have family holidays. If I had to fly, I’d never go. My mother and I tend to supply the wine because we need as much of it as we can chug. Thanksgiving food is awful. Forced family time is awful. We just go along with it because of inertia.

    And you know what else? Every time I hear jingle bells on a TV commercial I start exhibiting mild PTSD. For what other occasion in the western world do we have to endure two months of the same style of music and decor without alteration? The fact that it’s all been overtaken by capitalistic interests is the cool whip on the pie. I’ll be flying to someplace warm this year and hopefully they’ll have weed when I get there.

    1. >>>Every time I hear jingle bells on a TV commercial I start exhibiting mild PTSD.

      the lexus people can foad for their xmas sale ads.

      1. I promise to start liking Xmas again if someone gives me a free Lexus with a giant bow on it.

        1. wealthier friends.

    2. We just go along with it because of inertia.

      Look dude, either admit you do it because you get some value out of it or admit its because you’re too cowardly to take control of your own life. Whine, whine, whine, its not my fault. That’s all I hear from people when the truth is you’re exactly where you are because of the decisions you’ve made in your life and that’s it. Your life is completely and utterly your fault. You don’t like ‘forced family time’ – then nut the fuck up and stop doing it.

      1. The value I get is not hurting anyone’s feelings, something I already stopped caring about with respect to my father’s family, whom I don’t hate, but I feel that I shouldn’t have to hang around people I’d never choose to were we not related, and I would never choose to hang around those people, nor they with I.

        1. He said stop whining, not double down.

        2. Then have some self-respect and stop whining at us about it. You made your bed – go lie in it.

    3. May I suggest somewhere outside of the country and please do the rest of us a favor and don’t return.

  6. Remy is a fucking national treasure.

  7. Just did this 8 times in the last month. On at least 4 different carriers from 4 different airports.

    My roommate warned me about it. “They might catch you.”

    “The TSA might catch me?”

    Seriously, is there any government agency with a greater failure rate?

    1. I was sad that they discovered my handle of Scoresby scotch in my carry on. But they gave me a choice of tossing it, mailing it, or drinking it. And pretty soon after that I don’t really remember much, let alone being angry.

      1. Seriously, Scoresby?

        If you drank it, I think you made the wrong choice. Of course, if you threw it away you’d probably have been violating some environmental regulations, so there’s that.

    2. Federal election commission?

  8. I did it one time. Put weed in a sock. They didn’t catch it, but on the return flight, a sheriff’s deputy met me at the gate right as I got off the plane to search my bags. He singled me out. Just me. For a random search. Not TSA, but for some reason it was a real cop. I thought that they must have caught it later or something. Maybe they go back through video a second time. I don’t know. Anyway, I asked him why and he said it was just random. Uh huh, ok. Luckily I only brought a little bit and smoked it all, so the deputy had nothing to find. Needless to say, I’ll never do it again. Not worth it.

  9. The only things that the TSA seems to consistently find are shampoo and shaving cream, which are banned due to the 3 ounce bottle rule and are really easy to see. My friends have accidentally carried pocket knives through the barrier on multiple occasions.

  10. ‘Of the people who admitted to bringing cannabis on their flight, just 42.9 percent of men and 25.7 percent of women reported being caught by TSA, airport, or airline personnel.”

    That’s a 17% disparity between men and women. Women are either not searched as thoroughly, or they have better hiding places. 😉

    1. The Sloppy purse is one of the best hiding spots.

  11. . . . the TSA’s policy is to report any weed they find to local law enforcement, even if there’s nothing police can do about it.

    This is just another example of how *stupid* the TSA is.

    I can understand reporting pot to the police – the *Federal* police. But why would you call state cops to report a Federal crime? Makes no sense. There isn’t a Border Patrol officer in the airport? Someone working customs? No one? They don’t even have a phone number for a nearby DHS office? It makes more sense to call Game-and-Fish to report a break in – at least they’re state cops and its a state crime. If they find someone violating the Lacey Act do they call the locals too?

    They’re basically saying ‘I want to do this thing’ and then taking actions that make doing that thing pointless. Worse than pointless – it embarrasses the agency and that reduces morale.

    1. But why would you call state cops to report a Federal crime?

      Simple, the TSA may be federal however all airports are local, either private or local government controlled. The feds have no jurisdiction.

  12. If they are missing 70+% of fake weapons being brought through by testers, then they are missing 70+% of all weapons, yet I don’t recall any planes being hijacked, blown up, terrorized or what have you. So I guess 100% of all weapons that got through had nothing to do with any criminal or terrorist plot? What happened to that army of terrorists that is hiding in America? Maybe they are all afraid to fly?

  13. So, the TSA is NOT checking buttholes this year?

      1. Lol. That’s disgusting…

      2. Dont worry Tony, theyll always check you.

  14. The FBI classifies the Proud Boys as an extremist group and cops are totes worried!

    The Proud Boys?


    First the Juggalos and now Gavin McInnes’ group? There is nothing even remotely threatening about McInnes or any of the other folks I’ve seen with him in the few videos I’ve watched of their activities.

    What kind of person in the FBI makes this decision and do they have access to a fainting couch?

    1. After the next AG cleans house at Justice, the FBI should be next.

  15. I have always wondered about the magic number of 3.4, in relation to ounces and flying.
    Is it impossible for 15 terrorists to board 15 flights with 3.4 ounces of something and then get together in a ‘secure’ zone of a connection point and give all of it to one ‘already cleared’ traveler? It is like the federal government is incapable of thinking like a terrorist. Only the feds never thought forming long lines of unarmed civilians outside of the ‘secure’ areas was just creating a beautiful soft target.
    Or maybe they know street theatre used as a jobs program doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to get people used to giving up constitutional rights some of the time, in some of the places. Then inkblot it and slowly spread out.

    1. Didn’t you take 5th grade math and learn how to calculate averages? Clearly the TSA boffins got together one morning, listed what they each thought would be a safe limit, and took the average. I am only disappointed that we did not get a math-illiterate figure like 3.46296 ounces.

    2. I’m sure there is a regulation in there somewhere that only allows 14 terrorists to board.

  16. Shame on you guys. TSA is security theater, and if you burst the magic bubble (like explaining to the kids how the magician did the dumb tricks) then the audience will not believe. And then some of the sheeple will be afraid to fly, and the planes and airports will be less crowded. Um…

    on the other hand, carry on.

  17. Carry only as much as you’re willing to swallow and always carry it with you.

  18. Maybe the TSA won’t take it.
    Maybe not.
    But if the TSA does take your weed, at least its comforting to know where to buy some more MJ if you want some.

  19. Hey don’t sell the TSA short. You could pack your Glock and they probably wouldn’t find it.

  20. That last time I flew no one bothered to check passengers for weapons and you could smoke on the planes. I brought a pistol back from Germany [I bought it while in the Army] and customs only knew about it because I stopped at their little booth and told them.

  21. I lived and worked in Japan for many years and while there began using a Japanese pomade called “Gatsby” which is packaged in a disk-shaped plastic container. When I fly domestically in the USA with that product in my carry-on I always get pulled aside. When I put it in my checked-in luggage it is always opened and searched (and is marked as such which is how I know). On the other hand, I have flown with edibles with no trouble whatsoever. TSA agents are trained to question particular shapes and that is all.

  22. For a couple of years I collected all of the “We searched your luggage” notices. I even went as far as asking colleagues to give me any they had.

    On one absolutely stupendous flight I put *all* of then in my bag (50 or 60), along with a foil-wrapped cookie. When I got to my hotel and opened the bag, all of the notices were gone except one that had “well played, sir” written on it.

    That made my day.

    1. Was the cookie still there?

  23. One thing that I notice is that many of you fuckers have a drug problem.

    If you cannot afoid years in prison for transportation drugs because you need some weed on your trip, you have a drug problem.

    1. Keep on enjoying “Mommy’s wine time” …

    2. That’s right. Drugs being illegal is a problem.

  24. If you ever consider taking any cannabis products on a domestic flight, then (theoretically speaking, of course) you might want to put it in your carry-on, never in your checked bag (dogs routinely sniff those), and not on your person (due to body scanners). When they X-ray your carry-on, they’re looking for weapons, not your stash, and they only have a few seconds to examine the bag’s image. Be discreet, and travel only with a legal amount in your originating locale. Consider burying it in and around other ho-hum stuff like clothing, inside a generic sealed ziplock or two for odor control, and not in its original packaging, so it’s not obvious even if selected for additional scrutiny. Edibles should be even more discreet. Remember, they are really looking for weapons, liquids, and other items on the TSA bad-list. If you’re originating from an airport where it’s legal, then worst case, you may get turned over to the locals who could confiscate it or perhaps make you miss your flight if they’re really obnoxious. Arrest statistics at airports bear this out (google recent news reports for the airport if you’re concerned). This is not advice, just common sense. Happy flying!

  25. “Just over 25 percent of women and 19 percent of men said they brought prescription drugs aboard when they weren’t supposed to. Meanwhile, 8.5 percent of women and 15.2 percent of men admitted to smuggling weapons or ammunition.”

    I’m trying to understand what is illegal about transporting prescription drugs. I always hand carry my prescription med.

    I’m also trying to understand what is illegal about transporting firearms. I’ve transported firearms & ammunition numerous times in my checked bags. It only has to be declared when checking the bag along with a small form that goes inside the bag.

    1. prescription drugs are not banned. from the TSA blog:

      You can travel with your medication in both carry-on and checked baggage. It’s highly recommended you place these items in your carry-on in the event that you need immediate access.

  26. How much pot can you stuff in the turkey before you freeze it?

  27. They will, of course, find your oversized tube of toothpaste.

    1. Likely find your bag of buds if it is that big as well.

  28. The TSA has long been held out as necessary for public safety and to prevent terrorist activity. It has no business doing the OTHER 95% of what it does, and should be prosecuted for much of that. I don’t care to fly anymore, though I used to enjoy it…partly because it’s become an annoying pain in the butt, and partly because I don’t grant ANYBODY the right to paw me over unless I’m under arrest or in the hospital. Others who anoint themselves with that privilege are almost guaranteed to get nailed by an angry septuagenarian who doesn’t wish to spend his retirement in jail. This country has gone all to hell….

  29. I was caught with a large pocket knife. And then they found another, smaller knife in a pocket of my my backpack. Neither of which I intentionally packed and the TSA lady was very kind as I apologized while she confiscated my knives.

    1. they should give every passenger a medium sized knife, so they can fight off any would-be hijackers

  30. don’t bet on it. plenty of K9 units roaming the terminals, just to keep us safe

  31. Yeah, when I fly domestically in the USA with that product in my carry-on I always get pulled aside.

  32. The cost of security is high

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.