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Pot on Planes

Jul 03, 2017 04:35AM ● By Leland Rucker
I was watching the first episode of the second season of Viceland’s Weediquette series, which included a story about a North Carolina woman who came to Colorado to obtain cannabis oil for herself and five other mothers of children with autism. Medical cannabis is (kind of) legal there but impossible to obtain. She put six bottles of oil in her checked baggage and headed home, successfully, as it turns out.

With millions of tourists perhaps leaving the state with a couple of buds as well as mothers looking for medicine for their children, there are legitimate questions about whether you’ll be busted if you take marijuana on an airplane and head out of state. Tourists are allowed to purchase an ounce of Colorado kind but might find there’s some left over at the end of their vacation. What do you do?

The first thing to know is that the Transportation Security Agency, the federal organization that oversees the aviation industry and airport safety and who checks your luggage, is in a tough spot. It doesn’t screen for drugs and has no legal jurisdiction even if it finds bud in your bag. “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer,” it says on the TSA website. 

DIA officials always state that marijuana is illegal at the airport and prohibited to bring on board an aircraft. Last year about 55 million people passed through Denver International Airport. How many were arrested for possession of marijuana? None.

That’s right. The 30 people who were stopped complied by giving up their weed to the TSA rather than face a civil citation. A DIA official told 9News earlier this year that he thinks that means that people understand that it’s against the law and are complying with it.

That’s possible, I suppose, but people being people, I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. The TSA is responsible for keeping airplanes and airports safe. Given the situation, is it more likely that a couple of buds of Durban Poison aren’t making it more dangerous to fly and that arresting tourists with a little weed isn’t good publicity?

Last summer I brought back a single joint of Kenyan marijuana from Nairobi through Amsterdam after a vacation, and though my checked luggage, including the toiletry bag and paper sack where it was stashed, had been searched and opened, the joint was still there.
Probably not my most brilliant move, I admit, but it taught me something important: Airport security today, even in more restrictive environments like Europe, is all about keeping dangerous weapons and/or bombs off airplanes. Little buds of Blue Dream don’t make the skies any more dangerous.

Taking cannabis on an airplane is illegal, period, so we don’t suggest you break the law. But we’ll leave it to you. Be prudent. If you have doubts, don’t even try it. But since the TSA isn’t concerned about cannabis or using its security to search for it, common sense dictates you won’t get busted for a bud.