Travel Tip: Can I Fly with Cannabis?
"TSA security officers do not search for marijuana." - TSA.gov
In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. If you're looking for the secrets of how to sneak weed on the plane like the peanut butter jar idea... think again. This guide is for responsible, mature adults who are not interested in acting devious. The answer depends on where you’re flying, how much cannabis you intend to carry, and how much risk you want to assume. I also have more specific information on TSA's vape rules and how to take a vape pen on a plane.
Who's in Charge?
Before I proceed, lets clear up a common misconception – TSA officers are not cops. They do security work, but their job is not to enforce the law. What about the canines? Those are likely bomb dogs, as opposed to drug dogs, if you’re in the domestic terminal. Note: This pertains to domestic travel only!
That's a Bomb dog, not a Drug dog
The TSA has also publicly stated on its website that its officers “do not search for marijuana or other drugs,” but warns that its agents are required to turn over those found with cannabis or other drugs to local law enforcement (aka the cops). That said, your departure city and destination are important as they will dictate the laws you are subject to if you were to get caught. Because cannabis is illegal nationally, the federal legality will not change with location. However, you will be subject to the individual state’s laws and the airport’s laws, if applicable. Keep in mind there is a whole other set of rules for paraphernalia so you definitely need to do something about those unique weed accessories you're carrying.
What happens if you do get caught? The outcome will vary greatly depending on whether you get caught in Colorado or Arkansas. For instance, the Denver International Airport made cannabis possession illegal on airport grounds despite its legality statewide. However, they probably aren’t going to do anything if you get caught. In 2014, 29 people were caught trying to leave Denver International Airport (DIA) with cannabis and in each instance, police declined to issue citations – the passengers were allowed to board planes after throwing out the cannabis or concentrates. The result would likely have been wildly different if the same person was caught leaving Arkansas International Airport, where the penalty for possessing up to 4 ounces of marijuana is punishable with up to a year of jail time and fines up to $2,500. If you are traveling to or from Denver, I highly recommend reading my tips for smoking weed at high altitude. No one wants to ruin their first "weedcation", or trip to Colorado to smoke.
Evaluate the Quantity
The amount of weed you can fly with is directly linked to your departing state’s possession limits. For example, if you are flying with weed on a plane within a state with legal cannabis programs, you can fly with an amount up to that state’s legal medical and/or recreational limit. Just be aware that if you land in a state with less friendly cannabis laws, you are now at risk of being charged with possession.
If you are flying from a state where cannabis remains illegal and you are dead set on flying, try to keep quantities under your state’s lowest tier possession limit. As a general rule of thumb, both TSA and local law enforcement offices are going to be less concerned if you are traveling with an amount of cannabis that is clearly for personal use (like a few joints, or a vaporizer and a small container with BHO or another concentrate), as opposed to a weight viable for distribution.
Recommendations for Mitigating Risk
There is no perfect combination of itinerary and cannabis quantity that will guarantee a risk free flight. For those struggling with nerves, either consume before the flight or consider edibles as they are virtually indistinguishable from their un-infused counterparts and produce very little odor. One alternative to flying with cannabis altogether, is simply bringing your smoking supplies and then buying it when you arrive at your destination. The Safety Case stash box allows you to pack all your smoking essentials like rolling papers, pipes, grinders, lighters and more.