Learn & Burn: Should You Travel with Marijuana?

Posted by Brittany Anas on May 15, 2017

The scene: You’re planning a trip (business or, ahem, pleasure) and you’re making a packing list. Should you slip some marijuana into your luggage so you can imbibe while you’re away?

Sorry, we can’t give you a hard no or an enthusiastic yes on this one. Rather, it’s a hazy maybe.

With recreational marijuana legal in eight states and medical marijuana legal in 28 states, it would seem, on the surface, that you should be able to take a trip with a small amount of bud in legalized states.

But here’s where things get convoluted. Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a federal agency. Naturally, that raises the question: “Will they make a pot bust in the security screening line?” The short answer— no. They’ll likely refer you to the local law enforcement, which have officers stationed in the airport.

But, by no means is TSA encouraging you to travel with your pot, they’re just not actively searching for it.

For policy wonks, here’s the actual language:

“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.”

TSA goes on to say that the final decision rests with them on whether to allow any items on the plane.

OK, let’s be honest: The back-and-forth between TSA and the local law enforcement sounds awfully familiar to dad saying “go ask your mom.”

To help clear things up, a Boston-based spokesman for the TSA told the Boston Globe: “We would not retain drugs in the same way we wouldn’t retain fraudulent IDs or credit cards — we would kick those over to law enforcement. Our agents do administrative searches, not criminal searches.”

The spokesman at Denver International Airport (DIA) says it’s illegal to transport marijuana under federal law. Also, DIA doesn’t allow pot on the premises.

So, what’s the likelihood of getting busted with pot en route?

It’s not that high. Unless, of course, not many people are actually traveling with it, which could explain the following stats.

About 55 million people traveled through DIA annually. In 2015, officers stopped 30 people traveling with pot, according to 9News. None were issued citations, but they all complied with the airport’s request to toss it before getting on the plane.

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle. Not sure if G.I. Joe ever smoked any weed.