Can You Bring Marijuana on a Plane?

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As sunshine from the dawn of legalization creeps across the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world, a curious question remains unanswered. 

Does Airport Security Care About Marijuana?

Marijuana.com anonymously contacted airport law enforcement in the Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Denver airports to ask if someone who had their MMJ prescription could make it through security with marijuana. The answers received emulate the patchwork of legalization perfectly, meaning it depends on where you travel.

Marijuana at LAX?

LAX simply said yes, they will allow medical marijuana on a flight.

Marijuana at SFO?

SFO gave the most in depth and positive answer by saying that MMJ patients can fly with cannabis.  They should allow an extra 30-40 minutes for check-in and they need to declare at the security check that they have medical marijuana with them.  At that time an airport police officer will be contacted and they will take the passenger to a separate room where they will check all the documentation.  If it all checks out, the traveler is free to go with their pot.

Marijuana at DIA?

Although marijuana is completely legal in Denver, right down to the recreational level, airport officials said that it is a Federal Airport. Even though the subject discussed was medical cannabis, officials made it clear that the federal government does not recognize medical marijuana and passengers can’t fly with it in Colorado.

Does TSA Screen for Drugs?

In many cases, the inquiry lead to a referral to the Transport Security Administration a.k.a. the TSA.  When contacted, they quickly referred to their website which specifically states this somewhat outdated response about cannabis from 2012:

TSA screening procedures are governed by federal law and designed primarily to detect threats to aviation security. TSA officers do not specifically search for illegal drugs. If an officer discovers an item that may violate the law during security screening, even in states where marijuana is legal, TSA will refer the matter to law enforcement to make a determination on how to proceed.

The new states laws have not changed any procedures for TSA.

Background: The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state. The Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.

Law enforcement will determine how to proceed with the passenger who is attempting to transport marijuana – can include arrest, confiscation of the substance, request to dispose of the substance or allowing passengers to proceed. Passengers may be warned that if they are traveling into a state where marijuana remains illegal that they could face further consequences.

North of the U.S. border, transport security has vastly different challenges. In the spring of next year, Canada will be legalizing recreational marijuana nationally, and medical marijuana is already widely used across the country.  Citizens and tourists trying to get weed on a plane after legislation is enacted will likely be inevitable and plentiful.

“It’s a little bit premature to discuss,” said Mathieu Larocque, a Spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) in a phone call with Marijuana.com.  “The legislation needs to be put in place and then once it is, we assume that Transport Canada would follow suit and adjust.”

Mathieu went on to add that before any discussions like that take place, the federal government in Canada needs to enact the legislation that it’s working on now.  Once that happens, there will most certainly be some changes in airport policy and security.

“There are different sectors that could be impacted like pre-board screening or even checked baggage screening.”  He then said that Transport Canada is the department that oversees the regulations and then CATSA follows those directives.

While the transport security department awaits further legislation on recreational cannabis, medical marijuana on commercial aircraft in Canada is seeing some push and pull across the country.

Medical Marijuana in Canadian Airports?

“Medical marijuana we are dealing with on a daily basis,” said Larocque.  Canadians are permitted to fly with MMJ provided that they bring proper documentation, but more than likely those persons will be stopped and questioned about it at the very least.

“Our screening officers do not have the authority to accept or refuse the Health Canada documentation on the use of marijuana, so during the course of the search if we see [it]we have to let the [airport]police know. They determine if the documentation provided by the passenger is legitimate.”

There is one important factor to note if you plan on flying with marijuana at all, and that is airport security is only interested in their side of your trip.  That means if you are landing in a place where pot is still seen under the darkness of prohibition, you could run into trouble.  Best to leave your stash at home and use Weedmaps when you get there, and you can have a whole new stash before check in at the hotel.

Happy Traveling!

(SOUL PLANE, Godfrey C. Danchimah, Snoop Dogg, 2004, (c) MGM)

About Author

Jon Hiltz was a journalist for Marijuana.com for two years and is now director of content for INDIVA, a licensed cannabis producer in Ontario Canada.

32 Comments

  1. Even though weed is legal (or condoned is the better word) in the Netherlands. I would still never take any weed to the airport. They have dogs walking around and will treat you like a criminal if you have any weed with you.

    It’s still unbelievable how a natural medicinal plant has been made such a monster.

  2. I’m federally legal in every state practice your first amendment and if the spirit tells you too use medicine use it and become a member of the right organization so that your freedom is validated and you can practice religion aka spiritually aka faith as you see fit and cannabis is recognized as a sacrement by a native American church in sup ream courts… get educated be one with the creator and the bail will be lifted love all peace no religion just love and salvation from the death of that sweet boy they hung

  3. I just traveled through SFO with my meds and prescription card. When I told the first TSA officer I was a medical cannabis patient I was told to “leave it in my purse and not say anything. They may not even see it.” I did as I was told, left my prescription card with my ID and boarding pass and was not stopped or questioned. My bag came through the xray machine and I was hurried along to get out of the way. No problems, no questions and certainly no delay. I was carrying flowers, edibles and a vape pen.

  4. Airport officials in Denver are misinformed about their own airport. It’s not a Federal airport. It’s owned by the City & County of Denver.

  5. ” Best to leave your stash at home and use Weedmaps when you get there, and you can have a whole new stash before check in at the hotel. ”
    My Washington State MMJ registration card is not recognized in Oregon nor in California, so i can only purchase recreational in Oregon and black market in California (not likely). I would need to drive my own vehicle to transport my own medicine, illegally, to other states.

  6. I travel via airlines and have had no issues whatsoever flying out with MMJ. I keep less than an oz in my laptop bag, in it’s dispensary bag and containers. The laptop gets taken out and the bag goes through the scanners at TSA security checks. I’ve never declared anything and have had no issues whatsoever. I keep my prescription card on me at all times. I also check with the states I am going to travel to see what their laws require. I have flown to FL, NY, NJ, CT, and MA. I fly out with MMJ; however, a few of those states do not allow out of state prescription holders to fly out with their medicine. I reside in Los Angeles County so I either fly out of Burbank or LAX Airport.

  7. A friend has flown several times with flowers & edibles with no issue. He usually put it all in checked baggage, well wrapped up. Occasionally he has put it in carry on luggage.

    My friend who works for TSA tells me that baggage searches are not focused on finding small (personal) quantities of dope.

    Another guy who flys carrying constantly told me his weed disappeared from his checked bag once, but otherwise he has had no problems.

    I would be amazed if the Feds would want to prosecute the case of a patient carrying a small quantity of MJ. The US Attorney’s office has a saying, “Bad facts make bad law”. I think they would fear “jury nullification” and be reluctant to to create bad case law that might cause the defacto Legalization of medical weed at least for air travel.

  8. Im from the Bay Area and have flown out of SFO and Oakland at least half a dozen times with something from the mmj department. In August, en route to Vegas, I had even forgotten to take my pen out of my pocket to place in a bin, mixed in indiscriminately with all my other belongings, as I’ve done with pens most recently (used to just carry it in my pocket until they got full body scanners). I suddenly remembered and had no choice but to place my pen, along with 2 cartridges, alone in it’s own bin. I was pensive but not really nervous as I had all proper documentation and was geniunely curious to see what would happen. A tsa employee looked in the bin as it popped out the other side of the xray tunnel, grabbed my items and handed them to me smiling. She even winked! This was tha’ O, as we call it, but I’ve never had a peoblem at SFO either, where ive taken a half zip through and on to hawaii once. Other times much smaller quantities. With flower I put my script, fully opened and legible, in a gallon ziplock in my check-in luggage along with whatever flower im bringing in it’s original dispensary container. Not one issue. Ever. Lastly, 3 or 4 years ago I stepped into an elevator, with an eighth on my person, that had a cop with his canine. We greeted each other and I played it cool. We stepped off the elevator and walked in seperate directions, as I practically shat myself. Be legal, play it cool, co-operate if spurred but know your rights. These people have an important job that must be respected and lauded but in my experience, if you’re not a badguy or acting like one- you’re good.

  9. imagine if the deadly narcotic was to spill on an innocent bystander – thin edge of the wedge – do we need to issue hazmat to our brave TSA and others keeping the peace?

  10. I had edibles and a vape pen on the plane from CA to HA which are both medicinal states. I heard while on the island that they require you to have a Hawaii recommendation which is a bit more difficult/time consuming to obtain as they only have a couple doctors in state (5 islands – moneymaker) so there is a bit longer wait. No one seemed to notice any of my products either going there or coming back.

  11. Although marijuana is legal almost state but i think we still not bring them to the airport. At destination you bags are going to be checked by the Customs.You are going to get caught upon arrival.

  12. I used to travel with my marijuana, but nowadays I just use Weedmaps when I arrive, and that works really well for me.

    Great read tho, defnitely gave me some ideas and some knowledge!
    Regards, Ben

  13. Thanks for the article. Here is my two cent, According to my experience, Vape pens are much convenient than anything else. And on domestic flight there is no custom and all. You may face issue in internationla flights.
    Thanks

  14. ricky98992@aol.com on

    I contacted LAX and was told I couldn’t travel with weed because airspace belongs to the feds. I am not sure about other states though

  15. Thank God I found this article my flight is tomorrow and I could have been in serious trouble if I wouldn’t have read this post!

    Thank you soo much!

  16. Awesome! This is definitely great article to know so we won’t face any serious trouble at the airport. Good read tho, also use vape pens it much convenient. Thanks!

  17. The Weed Prof on

    Awesome! This is definitely great article to know so we won’t face any serious trouble at the airport. Good read tho, also use vape pens it much convenient. Thanks!

  18. It seems to be nice when we can invest in small amount to get electric cigarette instead of bring marijuane on plane. Like others mentioned the “vape pens” can be solution.

  19. Nicolas Blair on

    Awsm Article indeed.
    I just loved the way you’ve explained everything.
    It was great information and I’ll always keep it in mind when travel through flight.

    Thanks.

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