Monday, May 27, 2024

Can you fly with weed? Everything you should know ahead of 4/20 – The Points Guy

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As of February 2024, recreational weed is legal in 24 states; there are 38 states (plus Washington, D.C., and three territories) that allow marijuana possession for medical purposes, with 14 of those states limiting it to medical use only, per the Pew Research Center. Additionally, three states have marijuana legislation on the election docket this year.

Although these states have implemented legislation for their residents and visitors, marijuana still remains a federal offense as an illegal controlled substance, punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. This makes navigating the rules confusing when traveling from a state where marijuana is legally allowed to one where it’s not.

Here’s what you need to know about whether or not you can fly with weed, medical and otherwise.

Can you fly with weed?

Aligning with federal law, U.S. Customs and Border Protection still explicitly prohibits the importation of any amount of marijuana when entering the U.S. via land, such as by car.

“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law, given the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance,” a CBP spokesperson said. “ Consequently, individuals violating the Controlled Substances Act encountered while crossing the border, arriving at a U.S. port of entry, or at a Border Patrol checkpoint may be deemed inadmissible and/or subject to, seizure, fines, and/or arrest.”

However, when traveling domestically to states where pot is permitted, the Transportation Security Administration allows products containing up to 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

“Transportation Security Officers are not law enforcement, but they are obligated to contact local law enforcement if it appears as though a passenger is in possession of a criminally banned item,” a TSA spokesperson said.

Should the TSA refer you to local police, discretion is up to local governing bodies to pursue legal action.

Some airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), provide travelers with cannabis amnesty boxes where they can toss their weed before going through security checkpoints.

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Others, including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), release any jurisdiction to arrest individuals if complying with state marijuana laws.

“[Los Angeles Airport Police Division] officers, who are California Peace Officers, have no jurisdiction to arrest individuals if they are complying with state law,” the airport’s marijuana policy reads. “However, airport guests should be aware that TSA screening stations are under federal jurisdiction.”

Can you fly with medical marijuana?

The same rules apply to traveling with medical marijuana.

“Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law,” as noted by the TSA. This excludes products with less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Can you fly with cannabis-infused products?

JAMIE GRILL/GETTY IMAGES

The rules get murkier when traveling with cannabis-infused or THC products, such as oil, leaf marijuana, edibles and hash; these remain illegal under federal law and are prohibited during air travel.

Other marijuana-derived substances, however, are not quite as straightforward. For example, CBD oil derived from hemp has been legal since 2018, but TSA rules still ban CBD oil.

You can travel with vape pens in carry on-bags, but they cannot be checked if containing lithium batteries exceeding 100 watt hours, according to TSA rules. If the cartridges you’re carrying for the vape pen contain THC, those are illegal on the federal level. You can also bring marijuana paraphernalia (bowls or pipes) in your carry-on.

Bear in mind that TSA officials are not trained specifically to differentiate between various types of cannabis products. This means that if they see something suspicious (such as a bong) that may be associated with federally illegal substances, they’ll likely report it to local law enforcement.

What happens if the TSA finds weed in your luggage?

NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES

Regardless of state law or airport jurisdiction, your cannabis products will be confiscated, given federal law.

It’s in the transfer from the TSA to law enforcement where some loopholes in the federal rules might be found, depending on whether local law enforcement is interested in pursuing the matter further.

Consequently, travelers caught with marijuana should know that the repercussions can vary widely depending on that specific state’s policies on possession.

Bottom line

Marijuana laws vary by state, and airports encourage travelers to check the specific laws of the states where they plan to travel.

By law, TSA officers are required to report any suspected law violations to local, state or federal authorities since federal law applies at all border crossings and airports.

However, the TSA and local law enforcement officers at the airport for domestic travel — especially in weed-friendly states — will be far more focused on potential security risks than low-level drug enforcement.

Though it is unlikely you’ll be cited, detained or prosecuted for carrying a pot brownie or baggie of gummies onto your flight in most states, the simplest and safest option is to not travel with any marijuana and pick up a new supply upon arrival at your destination.

Domestic airport travel with marijuana should be considered a low-risk, but not risk-free, action.

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