Can you fly domestically with medical marijuana or recreational cannabis?
In recent years, several states in the U.S. have legalized adult recreational use and/or medical marijuana. But does this mean you can now carry weed onto an airplane in these states?
Sadly, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I illegal substance. Therefore, even if you’re flying between two distinctly marijuana-friendly states, the airspace between the two still falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. Moreover, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) — those brave men and women who bear the ire of travelers nationwide — are federal employees.
Thankfully, however, the TSA is not a division of the DEA, the federal agency that’s responsible for enforcing the country’s cannabis rules. TSA agents are primarily interested in the safety of passengers. They’re mostly on the lookout for explosives and weapons that could be used to threaten the lives of air travelers.
So what happens if while searching your luggage the TSA finds marijuana? In 2021, a TSA official stated: “The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.“ So, is the TSA touchy about your stash?
The TSA has stated that security officers “do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.“
So now the question becomes, will a local law enforcement officer care? The answer depends on the state and their cannabis laws — particularly as they apply to flying with cannabis.
Although TSA agents are federal employees, the airports in which they work are generally owned by states or by corporations that must comply with the laws of the state in which they operate.
According to the well respected cannabis-industry lawyer, Larry Mishkin, although pot is illegal on a federal level, “certain airports, like LAX and O’Hare, have publicly announced that they will not stop any outbound passenger in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. If however, you arrive at the airport and realize you have marijuana in your possession and do not want to travel with it, you can deposit it in the amnesty boxes if there are any present, or you can throw it in the trash.”
It’s just not a good idea to bring marijuana on a plane...
However, Mr. Mishkin strongly advises against breaking federal laws by carrying marijuana on a plane. He states that “Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and federal law governs airplane travel in this country.” Furthermore, he maintains that the airspace is a federal territory. If you attempt to bring cannabis on a plane, even between two legal states, “you’ve broken the law of the state that you purchased it in, you’ve broken the law of the state that you’re going into, and you’ve broken federal law.”
Mr. Mishkin believes that, although there is some wiggle room in the eyes of the law, medical marijuana cardholders “are typically treated a little more leniently than somebody else. But having a medical marijuana card may only help you sometimes. At the airport, TSA doesn’t have the jurisdiction or ability to check the validity of those cards. The agent could still pass you off to the local police, who will assess the situation. The state you’re in is also important. If there’s no medical-marijuana program there, a card will mean “absolutely nothing.”
What about flying with CBD?
What about flying with CBD? Boarding a commercial flight with CBD won’t be a problem as long as the product contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Additionally, if your product is in liquid form it should be 3.4 ounces or less to comply with TSA carry-on policy.