U.S.: TSA May Let You Carry Marijuana On Airplane, Depending On Flight
By Steve Elliott
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reportedly allowing passengers to bring both medical and recreational marijuana aboard commercial airliners, depending on where they are flying and what the law allows in the departing and arriving states.
Since the TSA is a federal agency, it doesn't involve itself with state laws such as the general cannabis legalization recently passed by voters in Colorado and Washington, reports Chris Weller at Medical Daily. While flying with any amount of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the current protocol for agents who find cannabis during the screening process is to defer to local law enforcement officials.
If the passenger can show sufficient proof of medical use -- or is flying between states where marijuana is legal -- officials will often let it slide.
"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," said Keith Stroup, the attorney who founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), reports Aaron Kase at Lawyers.com.
Actually testing enforcement of the law at an airport still carries some risk, as a grumpy TSA agent can always decide to exercise his right as a federal employee and slap the cuffs on you. "The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane," states the TSA's website.
"I'm delighted to hear that because I think it shows that TSA primarily is acting as it was intended when it was established, to protect all of us when we travel on the airlines and to thwart terrorists," Stroup said. "It is not supposed to be an anti-drug agency."
The reports of success in bringing cannabis aboard planes have mostly been anecdotal, making it hard to keep track of the current behavior of TSA agents. Even in states that allow it, the final say rests with the TSA agent.
Incidentally, since most medical marijuana states don't offer reciprocity to out-of-state MMJ authorizations, even if passengers are allowed to fly with medicinal cannabis from one medical state to another, they could be in violation of local laws when they land with it, points out Lawyers.com.
Only when federal laws loosen can medical marijuana patients feel safe openly admitting to its presence, Stroup said.
"What nobody feels 100 percent comfortable with is it's a gray zone you're going through," Stroup said. "It's technically still illegal even though they aren't enforcing it very strongly. I'm glad to see there's a little give in the system, but obviously at some point we need to remove marijuana from federal law so this is not an issue."