- Posted by Laura Croft, Esq
- On December 22, 2016
- Airport, breaking, cannabis, expectations, Federal Law, Flying, regulations, rules, TSA
The holiday season is upon us and many of you may want, and need, to travel with your medical Cannabis. While you may only be traveling within California, protected both by the Compassionate Use Act, and Prop 64, once you step foot into an airport, you are technically on federal property and about to enter federal air space – a federal jurisdiction double whammy.
While medical marijuana has been legalized in 28 states, and the adult recreational use of Cannabis is legal in California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine; Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, classified as a Schedule 1 drug , “with no currently accepted medical use.” This means patients can technically be detained, arrested and subject to criminal prosecution when travelling through security.
However, the pleasant individuals in the blue uniforms that put your luggage through the conveyor belt and screen your person through the x-ray machines, are reportedly not specifically focused on the detection and seizure of Cannabis. Rather, the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration), which is a federal agency and bound to enforce federal law, is principally focused on maintaining safety and thwarting terrorism. In fact, if you call TSA and ask them about their local policies, the agency will explain that it does not handle criminal issues.
Surprisingly, the TSA website states a hands off policy, with regards to marijuana:
- TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.
- Whether or not marijuana is considered legal under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law. Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.
- Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.
At this time, both TSA and local officials are seemingly taking a rather laissez faire approach to traveling with Cannabis. If TSA has a concern about Cannabis, they will bring local law enforcement to the TSA security area. The law enforcement will be enforcing the laws of the state that the airport is located in. Therefore, if you have a medical marijuana physician recommendation and you are carrying an amount within their recommended limit, often times, passengers have reported a warning or possible fines; however, they are permitted to proceed through security with their Cannabis. Passengers flying with Cannabis seem to stress the importance of a friendly, candid and cooperative attitude. Quantity plays a huge factor in being flagged in the first place, and being permitted to proceed. Although most California airports are reported to be medical Cannabis friendly airports when passengers are travelling within the State of California; there is a zero tolerance policy when crossing state lines or travelling internationally. Recently a member of the group Fifth Harmony, Lauren Jauregui, was flagged because she was carrying a knife and a torch lighter. Although, TSA was not looking for Cannabis, she was flagged for potential weapons, a big “no-no” that most passengers are hopefully aware of. Cannabis was found, confiscated and she was given a a citation for marijuana possession and sent on her way. She was flying internationally to Brazil.
Medical marijuana patients that choose to fly within the State of California with their medicine, must be mindful of limits for medical Cannabis and limits under Prop 64 still apply, when leaving several California airports .
California law regarding the Transportation of Recreational Use of Marijuana states:
- BEFORE PROP 64: Felony. But, if less than an ounce of cannabis is given away, the offense was a misdemeanor.
- AFTER PROP 64: Misdemeanor (Health & Safety Code § 11360(a)(2)). However, the offense is a wobbler if the person has two or more prior convictions under this section; is a registered sex offender or has a prior super strike; the offense involved the sale/offer to give away to minors; or the offense involved import into this state or transport out of this state of more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than 4 grams of concentrated cannabis. (Health & Safety Code §§ 11360(a)(3)(A)-(D).
One thing is certain, flying with cannabis is an evolving issue, containing a lot of grey area. CannabusinessLaw emphasizes that transporting marijuana across state lines is considered to be interstate transport, and illegal under the federal law, which is a very serious offense, indicating fines, potential jail time and criminal prosecution.
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