“Can I fly on a plane with my cannabis that I legally purchased?” This is a question we hear on a pretty regular basis. The answer, unfortunately, is a complicated one. But, let’s try to break it down anyway.
First, let’s assume that since you’re purchasing your cannabis at Mary Jane’s House of Grass, our Vancouver Washington dispensary, that you’ll probably be flying out of Portland International Airport, just across the river.
Then, let’s next imagine that you’re just taking a short hop over to Eugene and will be landing at Eugene Airport, also known as Mahlon Sweet Field, without leaving the state. Then, based on state regulations, you would legally be allowed to carry up to an ounce of cannabis on your commercial flight. Airport officials changed its policy after the statewide recreational cannabis law went into effect.
With that said, you better be flying within the state.
If you are flying to literally anywhere else and have to cross state lines, then you might just be in trouble.
That’s because, if the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Portland International Airport finds that you are carrying cannabis, their first action is to report you to the Port Police.
What, I thought you said I could fly with cannabis?
Yes, you can fly with cannabis within the state of Oregon and if you are 21 years old and if you have one ounce or less. According to an article in Travel + Leisure, “[TSA agents] ‘do not search for marijuana and other drugs’ but will refer any that are found to local law enforcement.
So, if you carry your ounce of weed through the security checkpoint in your carry-on bag and a TSA agent finds it, you have to deal with Port Police.
What happens next?
First, you’ll probably have to wait a long time and you might even miss your flight. They’re not interested in your travel plans. They’re just doing their job and usually that takes awhile.
But seriously, Port Police will then check to see how old you are (confirming you are above 21 years of age), check to see if you are carrying within the legal limit (one ounce), and check your final destination, which must be within state. If those boxes are checked off, then you are free to go . . . find the next flight available because you just missed yours.
What if I’m carrying an ounce or less, but try to take it on an out-of-state flight?
Well, you’re in luck, kind of. Since cannabis is legal in the state of Oregon, the Port Police will most likely just make you ditch your stash before your flight rather than prosecute you.
As Steve Johnson, media relations manager for the Port of Portland, told Travel + Leisure, “most commonly the traveler will be asked to leave the secured area . . . and safely secure the recreational marijuana before traveling.”
You just got so lucky! Traveling with cannabis across state lines is a federal crime.
What if I’m traveling through another airport in a state where cannabis is legal?
Well, it varies. The laws in Washington are very similar to Oregon, so if you’re flying out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport you’re cannabis will only be confiscated if you’ve committed a violation of the law. So, like Oregon, the charge is based on fact rather than a premeditated act.
However, the rules change if you’re in Colorado. You can’t even bring cannabis anywhere on the Denver International property. It is banned. And, in Colorado Springs, amnesty boxes have been set up so anyone who “accidentally” brought cannabis with them to the airport can safely deposit it before boarding a flight.
But, what if I’m flying from Oregon to another state where cannabis is recreationally legal?
Unfortunately, it’s still technically a no-no and the reason is multifaceted.
For one, transporting cannabis across state lines is illegal as it’s considered interstate transport by the federal government. This could involve jail time, according to an article in Weed News.
However, you might ask, “What’s the deal? If I’m traveling from one legal cannabis state to another; this should not be an issue.” Nope, it shouldn’t, but it is. Again, the reasons are multifaceted, but let’s start with the fact that states who have legalized recreational cannabis added a byline that prohibited purchasers from leaving the state where the cannabis was legally obtained.
More importantly, the air where planes travel is mostly made up of federal air space. And, if you don’t recall, cannabis, while legal at the state level, is illegal at the federal level. So, even if you legally fly with cannabis from Portland to Eugene, if you fly into federal air space, you are breaking the law.
So you’re telling me it’s a bad idea?
Not so fast, buddy. It’s definitely not worth the hassle if you get caught, but not that many people even get caught – or maybe not that many people are taking the risk? Nope, I think not that many people are getting caught.
According to data from Denver International Airport, 55 million people traveled through this hub in 2015 and not a single person received a ticket related to cannabis possession. And, more astoundingly, only 30 people were stopped by TSA and were asked to toss their cannabis; they did.
And honestly, I’d be more concerned about the people trying to bring loaded guns in carry-on bags. Not the friends wanting to get high on vacation.
In the same 2015 timespan, TSA saw over 708 million passengers in the U.S. and scanned 1.6 billion carry-on bags at which time they discover 2,653 guns, 83% of which were loaded. That was a 20% increase from 2014.
Ultimately, TSA is concerned with actual security threats, not your one-ounce cannabis. So, do what you will, but know that if you’re within the legal carry limits, you’re more likely to miss your flight than end up with a ticket, or worse, in jail. So, stop by our Vancouver Washington dispensary and just try to smoke all the cannabis before your next flight.