Flying with weed is a stupid, unnecessary risk that only an airhead would take, right? Not so fast–because the TSA doesn’t seem to give a flying fuck if you fly with Mary Jane on board. The TSA clearly states that they do not actively search for cannabis and will only seek your bud if it blatantly stands out (like a suitcase full of it):
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 “medical marijuana” under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law and federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.
Real translation: if you live in a medical marijuana state and traveling to one, you’re not putting yourself at risk. And since you can safely bet that at least 1/100 travelers fly high–and that the other 99 fly with addictive pills–attempting to monitor every passenger with a comb would be a logistical nightmare. And it’s the TSA’s call whether or not to utilize that screening time on a meaningless plant.
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.
Their statement is definitely open for interpretation (and lets them bend their policies). But according to Lawyers.com, that translates to a turn-a-blind-eye policy and indicates TSA acknowledges that there are much bigger priorities for their agency than a big of grass:
While TSA may never come right out and say that it will allow people to carry a federally banned substance, advocates in the field say that’s generally what’s been happening in practice.
“I hear reports from people flying from one medical use site to another or flying from one part of California to another and they generally report that if they carry their authorization, they simply show the letter and are sent on their way and are allowed to keep their medicine,” says Keith Stroup, an attorney and founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “The same policy should apply Colorado to Washington or Washington to Colorado.”
“I’m delighted to hear that because I think it shows that TSA primarily is acting as it was intended when it was established, to protect all of us when we travel on the airlines and to thwart terrorists. It is not supposed to be an anti-drug agency,” says Stroup. “What nobody feels 100 percent comfortable with is it’s a grey zone you’re going through. It’s technically still illegal even though they aren’t enforcing it very strongly.”
Obviously, it’s still not a great idea to abandon restraint and overtly fly with weed. Bringing it on board (especially underneath) is generally a safe maneuver–but one that is definitely not foolproof.
Aside from focusing on terrorism and real threats to our safety, the TSA’s rationale for this policy is well-founded. If they stopped and seized every Joe Stoner that brings pot on a plane: lines would become enormous, stoners would stop flying, flight sales would cripple (boats would rise!), and the TSA would crumble.
That’s just logic–and very beneficial for the foreseeable future of stoners in flight. Until the calendar turns 2014, when anyone in the world can fly to Colorado or Washington, open up Weedmaps, and legaelly pick up a sack of weed in under an hour.