Unless you were living under a rock this week, then you are aware that the number of legal states in America doubled after the election. The states that legalized were of course California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine. According to the most recent census numbers, those states have a combined population of 49,714,000 people, with California of course making up the bulk of the statistic (38.8 million people live in California).
Prior to the election, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, and Washington D.C. had voted to legalize. Their combined populations are 17,783,625. Needless to say, A LOT more people now live where cannabis is legal. Over 21% of Americans to be exact. Now add to that medical marijuana patients. With the election victories in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas this week, there are now 28 states in America that have legalized medical marijuana (not including ‘CBD only states,’ I don’t count those).
With so much marijuana reform on America’s brain, a lot of marijuana related things have been trending on social media. One of the things that I saw yesterday popping up a lot was questions around flying on airplanes with legal marijuana. It’s an evolving issue right now. Marijuana is still federally illegal, and transporting marijuana cross stated lines is considered to be interstate transport by the federal government, which is a very serious offense that involves jail time.
In order to address the topic of marijuana and flying, it’s important to look at how airports are policed. If you have flown, you are likely familiar with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which is the people in blue uniforms that put you through the machines and look through your bags. People think that those guys arrest you in the event that there is marijuana found on your person or in your baggage. That’s not actually true.
I was traveling a few years back, and I sent a direct question to TSA asking about flying with medical marijuana. I was an Oregon medical marijuana patient at the time, and was traveling to a state that at the time recognized out of state medical marijuana cards. The explanation that I got from TSA was that TSA agents don’t handle criminal issues, which is how the categorize marijuana (federal law).
In the event that marijuana is found, local law enforcement is brought into the loop, at which point they are enforcing the laws of the state that the airport is located in. So for instance, I was flying out of the Portland airport, so Oregon law applied. Once I landed, that state’s marijuana laws would apply. What about in between you ask? In TSA’s response they said that as long as I never left the airplane or terminal, and kept the marijuana with me, TSA allows it. But that’s for medical marijuana.
But what about recreational marijuana? As far as I know, every state that has passed recreational marijuana laws have a stipulation in the law that says that recreational marijuana can not be taken out of the state it was acquired. That includes by plane. Some airports, Denver being the first, have created specific laws for that airport which give local police the ability to confiscate marijuana when they find it, and issue up to a $999 fine.
To be fair, I have literally never heard of anyone that I know getting caught flying with marijuana. But also to be fair, when a person does that, they are making a very serious decision, and they have to be ready to deal with the consequences that may occur. If you are a medical patient, and flying to a state that recognizes out of state medical cards, the TSA has taken a position in the past that it’s OK. However, it’s worth pointing out that new federal guidance could change that very quickly, so even that could go away. My advice is if you can, acquire marijuana in the state that you are traveling to, which with reform spreading, it’s getting easier and easier to do!