What if the TSA finds weed in my bag?


Traveling has always been complicated. Our By The Way Concierge column will put your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see the answer to your question? Submit it here.

As marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, we wanted to answer a question many travelers have: can you bring weed through airport security?

You are flying from a state where marijuana is legal to a state where marijuana is legal. You think that means you are in the clear, but you are wrong. No matter where you are flying from and to, it is still illegal to fly with marijuana.

That’s because possession of marijuana still remains illegal under federal law, and when you’re traveling by plane, federal agencies are in charge.

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The Transportation Security Administration is in charge of security while the Federal Aviation Administration controls airways. Then, if you are entering the country from abroad, there is customs and border protection.

They enforce federal laws, and “at the federal level, it remains a criminal offense to possess any amount of cannabis, even for medical purposes,” says Brett Schuman, a partner at the law firm Goodwin and co-chairman of its cannabis practice. . (There is a caveat: cannabis is legal if it contains no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight.)

It is therefore illegal to bring marijuana from joints to ediblesgo through airport security, fly with or go through customs and immigration with in your checked or carry-on baggage, even if you are traveling between two places where it is legal.

However, that doesn’t mean you’ll go to federal prison if the TSA finds weed in your bag.

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“The TSA has made it clear that it is focused on safety for us passengers, not drugs,” says Shawn Hauser, partner at national cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP and co-chair of the hemp and cabinet cannabinoids.

I’ve spoken to the TSA several times on the subject, and their policy is simple: “TSA does not search for marijuana or other drugs,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in a E-mail. “And keep in mind that TSA dogs are trained to detect explosive scents, not drugs.”

If TSA agents find marijuana or other drugs during a routine screening process, they are supposed to notify local law enforcement, who will make the final decision.

This last call may vary. If you’re in a state where marijuana is legal, local law enforcement probably won’t respond to calls from the airport if they find any. And if they do, Hauser says they wouldn’t arrest someone who follows state law (for example, LAX authorities can’t arrest you for having cannabis if it’s in the legal amount authorized by California.)

The TSA can only confiscate the marijuana, tell you to throw it away, or “they can ask you to put it in an amnesty box or even bring it in your car,” Hauser says. Some airports prohibit the possession of marijuana on their property and may issue fines to passengers caught breaking their rule.

Again, “it’s not written anywhere, but individual TSA agents could exercise their discretion not to report you at all,” Schuman says.

You may experience greater consequences if you’re carrying larger amounts of weed or traveling to a state that remains staunchly anti-cannabis like Idaho, Nebraska or Texas, Schuman says.

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In anti-pot states, it’s often other authorities — not the TSA — that find marijuana and charge travelers.

CBP has been known to find marijuana in passengers’ luggage, sometimes using K-9 drug detectors, which can result in fines, criminal prosecution, or the loss of your Global Entry membership.

There are also extreme cases where authorities find travelers carrying large amounts of weed. In Arkansas, detectives and their drug dogs found 180 pounds of marijuana in a lawyer’s luggage at the Little Rock airport last year.

That same month, in Tennessee – a state “categorically against” cannabis – a drug-addicted dog employed by the Drug Enforcement Administration and local detectives found 12 bags of marijuana in luggage at the Memphis airport, leading to the arrest of the owner of the bag, a search warrant for his home, and later criminal charges, reported FOX13 Memphis. In December, two Nashville Spirit Airlines travelers were jailed in the subway jail and charged with felony drug possession after a K-9 unit found 18 pounds of marijuana in their luggage at the airport.

It’s “pretty rare” to see ordinary travelers face legal consequences for small sums, Hauser says, despite a customer being detained at an airport in a state where the weed is illegal, which was then suffered “a simple legal procedure which was quickly resolved”.

Schuman is of the same opinion. He is unaware of the “average Jane or average Joe traveling through an airport with a pre-roll or a packet of candy” who has spent time in jail.

But even if the TSA isn’t looking for your pot, “the main answer has to be: it’s still federally illegal,” Schuman said,

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