Traveling with Cannabis

traveling with cannabis

By Alice Blunt

As winter finally starts to fade from memory, the rays of sunshine grow stronger, the days get longer and temperatures start to rise, it’s natural to start thinking about much-anticipated spring and summer vacations.  If you live in a US state where pot is legal for recreational use and you’re thinking about bringing some nugs with you on that summer trip to the Grand Canyon though, watch out. There are laws about traveling with cannabis that you should definitely be aware of before packing your bags and boarding a plane for your next adventure.

Marijuana Is Still Illegal Under Federal Law

Despite what many of us may wish, marijuana is still an illegal, schedule 1 drug under United States Federal Law.  And guess which agencies operate the areas of an airport past security screening; that is, the areas where passengers board planes and wait for said planes in those uncomfortable, hard-as-rock reception chairs?  That’s right: these areas are exclusively maintained by US federal agencies. This means that if cannabis in whatever form (weed, edibles, etc.) is found in your possession or on your person while going through security or after passing through security, it will likely trigger an interaction with law enforcement.

Sounds scary, right?  Actually, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind here.  The goal of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during security screens is to find and detect explosives, weapons and other threats to the safety and wellbeing of the aircraft and to the people onboard.  The TSA is not focused on finding and detecting drugs. Therefore, if your friendly TSA agent does happen to find any pot during a security screen, she will contact the local airport law enforcement, whose response is typically far from formidable.

Choices for Disposal

What are your choices if you do have to have a chat with the local airport police?  If pot is legal in the state you are leaving, and the amount of pot you are carrying is within the legal limit, you won’t be charged with anything (whew!).  In fact, the worst thing that could happen is you might be forced to throw in the trash that lovely stash of Amnesia Lemon you were looking forward to inhaling before frolicking in a rolling surf.  It’s quite likely that your choices of what to do with your pot in a state where pot is legal would be:

  • Dispose of pot in the trash
  • Put it in a locked amnesty box
  • Give it to a friend at the terminal
  • Put it in your car
  • Drive it home and probably miss your flight

Not All Airports Are the Same

However, the laws vary by airport, even in states where pot is legal.  At the Reno-Tahoe International Airport – located in Nevada, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2017 – pot use at the airport is not allowed, even in smoking areas outside screening areas.  It’s a similar situation in Nevada’s McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. McCarran has a formal, airport-wide ban on possessing or advertising marijuana. Amnesty boxes for cannabis products have been installed at multiple locations at the McCarran Airport, including one at McCarran’s central car rental location, making it clear to travelers that pot is not welcome anywhere at this airport, even before one encounters the lovely TSA.

It may be surprising to learn that a similar situation exists at the Denver International Airport.  Colorado was the first state to allow brick-and-mortar stores within state lines to sell recreational marijuana back in 2014.  Nevertheless, the Denver airport maintains a strict policy of prohibiting pot anywhere on airport property. No amnesty bins or jogs back to your parked car allowed here; the trash bin is the only acceptable receptable for pot at this airport.  Imagine a stash of sweet Blue Mango ending up in a filthy airport trash bin!

Going to Try to Take Mary Jane On the Flight with You, Anyway?

We warned you that if the TSA finds your stash, they’re going to make you get rid of it somehow as the TSA does not want cannabis on commercial airplanes. We at Growers Choice strongly recommend following the letter of the law in this case, but if you like to push the boundaries and you think these restrictions are a violation of your rights? Here are some steps other people have recommended for packing your plants:

  1. Don’t bring a large amount of pot with you – The larger the amount, the more likely it will be spotted.  Keep amounts small and discrete.
  2. Don’t check a bag with cannabis in it – The TSA very regularly does random checked-bag security checks.  However, they’re less likely to find your mj in a carry-on bag, should you hide the ganga appropriately. And while we’re talking about hiding …
  3. Hiding in plain sight is the way to go and keep in mind what TSA looks for – Do not hide your marijuana in a potentially sketchy way that would attract TSA attention.  Stay away from anything liquid, the TSA loves to check liquids. Instead, put a couple of extra joints in a normal cigarette pack. Put some edibles in a bag of candies.  You get the idea.
  4. Make sure the rest of your bag is fully TSA-compliant –  Don’t put pot in your bag stuffed with firecrackers; while the TAS is marveling at your firecrackers, the pot will also be found.  (And you shouldn’t be flying with firecrackers anyway!) Make your bag as perfectly complaint as possible, and it’s likely the bits of cannabis will not be detected.

Happy travels and may you enjoy happy, healing, high times wherever your adventuring takes you!

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