Social media has been abuzz the last week over a change in policy that allows passengers to possess cannabis at the Los Angeles International Airport. But the policy isn’t new—it’s been in effect since January—and it doesn’t mean that it’s legal to fly with weed.
Memes with highlights of the LAX cannabis rules circulated on Instagram and Twitter and the complete policy can be found on the airport’s website.
“While federal law prohibits the possession of marijuana (inclusive of federal airspace,) California’s passage of Proposition 64, effective January 1, 2018, allows for individuals 21 years of age or older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana for personal consumption. In accordance with Proposition 64, the Los Angeles Airport Police Department will allow passengers to travel through LAX with up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana. However, passengers should be aware that marijuana laws vary state by state and they are encouraged to check the laws of the states in which they plan to travel,” reads the online posting of the policy.
But those rules only apply to the Los Angeles Airport Police Department. The Transportation Security Administration is a different story. TSA spokesperson Lori Dankers said that since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, when agents discover marijuana during security screenings the matter is always referred to local police.
“Whether or not the passenger is allowed to travel with marijuana is up to law enforcement’s discretion,” Dankers said.
“It is important for me to note that TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized,” she explained. “This also covers medical marijuana.”
Dankers also noted that the legal status of cannabis in the states being traveled to is not a factor.
“The passenger’s originating and destination airports are not taken into account,” said Dankers.
The situation is similar in Massachusetts, where “possessing an ounce or less is legal in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and operates Logan International Airport, doesn’t have any policy prohibiting it, so you can bring your stash onto airport property,” according to the Boston Globe.
If they do find cannabis, officers with the TSA won’t confiscate it if the local authorities determine it isn’t a violation of the law. Mike McCarthy, a TSA spokesperson based in Boston, said the agency doesn’t seize things that aren’t a security risk.
“We would not retain drugs in the same way we wouldn’t retain fraudulent IDs or credit cards — we would kick those over to law enforcement,” said McCarthy. “Our agents do administrative searches, not criminal searches.”
Because of that, you might be able to get away with travel between or within pot legal states, if you are willing to go through the hassle of being bounced around between law enforcement agencies before you board your flight.
“I don’t imagine anyone will not make their flight — but that’s up to local law enforcement, in this case, the State Police,” said McCarty of the TSA.
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