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What to Expect If You Try to Fly With Cannabis

December 30, 2015

Say you spent the holidays in one of the four states — or one district — where cannabis is legal. You get to the airport and realize you’ve accidentally left a gram or two in your pocket (OK, it might’ve been on purpose). You start to sweat. What will happen on your way through security?

Chances are good you’ll be better off than you would’ve been just a few years ago. It’s still against the law to cross state lines with cannabis, but a number of airports have relaxed their policies on how to handle offenders.

Let’s be clear: The Transportation Security Administration is a federal agency, and its website warns travelers that state laws are “not relevant to TSA screening.” If screeners do find cannabis, the agency says, it will refer the matter to law enforcement. In other words, just because you bought that joint legally doesn’t mean you can bring it on your flight.

Well, unless you’re staying in Oregon. Portland International Airport allows adults 21 and over to travel with cannabis as long as they’re flying to an in-state airport, according to a July announcement.

Washington state hasn’t gone quite that far, but Seattle-Tacoma International Airport told USA Today that officials won’t make a fuss provided travelers are complying with state law.

Leave the Pacific Northwest, though, and you might have a tougher time. Authorities at the Denver International Airport make travelers toss their cannabis, but you’re likely to get off without a citation despite posted warnings about fines.

In California, where only medical use is legal, you might be OK if you can show a doctor’s note. Cannabis Now noticed an Instagram post (since removed) by an employee of an extract-maker who was stopped after a TSA screener mistook kale chips for a bag of cannabis. The official said he would’ve let it go, the poster wrote, “had I shown my medical recommendation. Gotta love SFO!”

We still don’t advise taking your chances. An arrest is no way to ring in the new year.

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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