Can You Bring Marijuana on a Plane?

As sunshine from the dawn of legalization creeps across the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world, a curious question remains unanswered. 

Does Airport Security Care About Marijuana? anonymously contacted airport law enforcement in the Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Denver airports to ask if someone who had their MMJ prescription could make it through security with marijuana. The answers received emulate the patchwork of legalization perfectly, meaning it depends on where you travel.

Marijuana at LAX?

LAX simply said yes, they will allow medical marijuana on a flight.

Marijuana at SFO?

SFO gave the most in depth and positive answer by saying that MMJ patients can fly with cannabis.  They should allow an extra 30-40 minutes for check-in and they need to declare at the security check that they have medical marijuana with them.  At that time an airport police officer will be contacted and they will take the passenger to a separate room where they will check all the documentation.  If it all checks out, the traveler is free to go with their pot.

Marijuana at DIA?

Although marijuana is completely legal in Denver, right down to the recreational level, airport officials said that it is a Federal Airport. Even though the subject discussed was medical cannabis, officials made it clear that the federal government does not recognize medical marijuana and passengers can’t fly with it in Colorado.

Does TSA Screen for Drugs?

In many cases, the inquiry lead to a referral to the Transport Security Administration a.k.a. the TSA.  When contacted, they quickly referred to their website which specifically states this somewhat outdated response about cannabis from 2012:

TSA screening procedures are governed by federal law and designed primarily to detect threats to aviation security. TSA officers do not specifically search for illegal drugs. If an officer discovers an item that may violate the law during security screening, even in states where marijuana is legal, TSA will refer the matter to law enforcement to make a determination on how to proceed.

The new states laws have not changed any procedures for TSA.

Background: The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state. The Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.

Law enforcement will determine how to proceed with the passenger who is attempting to transport marijuana – can include arrest, confiscation of the substance, request to dispose of the substance or allowing passengers to proceed. Passengers may be warned that if they are traveling into a state where marijuana remains illegal that they could face further consequences.

North of the U.S. border, transport security has vastly different challenges. In the spring of next year, Canada will be legalizing recreational marijuana nationally, and medical marijuana is already widely used across the country.  Citizens and tourists trying to get weed on a plane after legislation is enacted will likely be inevitable and plentiful.

“It’s a little bit premature to discuss,” said Mathieu Larocque, a Spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) in a phone call with  “The legislation needs to be put in place and then once it is, we assume that Transport Canada would follow suit and adjust.”

Mathieu went on to add that before any discussions like that take place, the federal government in Canada needs to enact the legislation that it’s working on now.  Once that happens, there will most certainly be some changes in airport policy and security.

“There are different sectors that could be impacted like pre-board screening or even checked baggage screening.”  He then said that Transport Canada is the department that oversees the regulations and then CATSA follows those directives.

While the transport security department awaits further legislation on recreational cannabis, medical marijuana on commercial aircraft in Canada is seeing some push and pull across the country.

Medical Marijuana in Canadian Airports?

“Medical marijuana we are dealing with on a daily basis,” said Larocque.  Canadians are permitted to fly with MMJ provided that they bring proper documentation, but more than likely those persons will be stopped and questioned about it at the very least.

“Our screening officers do not have the authority to accept or refuse the Health Canada documentation on the use of marijuana, so during the course of the search if we see [it]we have to let the [airport]police know. They determine if the documentation provided by the passenger is legitimate.”

There is one important factor to note if you plan on flying with marijuana at all, and that is airport security is only interested in their side of your trip.  That means if you are landing in a place where pot is still seen under the darkness of prohibition, you could run into trouble.  Best to leave your stash at home and use Weedmaps when you get there, and you can have a whole new stash before check in at the hotel.

Happy Traveling!

(SOUL PLANE, Godfrey C. Danchimah, Snoop Dogg, 2004, (c) MGM)

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