Now that it’s legal to possess pot in Washington state, many are wondering if it’s OK to fly with marijuana. While it’s not legal, there’s word TSA screeners at Sea-Tac Airport are turning a blind eye.
“It’s still a crime to possess it under federal law. If you’re traveling interstate, you’re breaking the law,” says Alison Holcomb, ACLU of Washington State’s Drug Policy Director.
But with our state and Colorado legalizing marijuana use and possession, the website Lawyers.com says there are a number of anecdotes that people with medical marijuana authorizations or traveling between Washington and Colorado with pot are being allowed to fly.
In a statement on the TSA website, the agency says its 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.
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.
That means a TSA officer could pull you out of line and get a local law officer involved if they spot or suspect you’re carrying marijuana. But attorney Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, tells Lawyers.com while it remains illegal, in practice, TSA is allowing a number of marijuana users to travel with their stash.
“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,” said Stroup. “The same policy should apply for Colorado to Washington or Washington to Colorado.”
But Stroup cautions you could still get busted “if you get the wrong TSA agent and he wants to be a pain.”