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Do you have a fear of flying with cannabis? You don’t want to stress your life, but it does pay to be aware: in the US, flying with traditional cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. This includes traveling within a state or to another state that has legalized cannabis.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) attempts to have it both ways, with an Instagram post that offers an odd combination of language that tries to be both relatable and authoritarian:
Are we cool? We like to think we’re cool. We want you to have a pleasant experience at the airport and arrive safely at your destination. But getting caught while trying to fly with marijuana or cannabis-infused products can really harsh your mellow.
Let’s be blunt: TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana products or other illegal drugs. Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats to aviation and passengers.
First: Don’t take Instagram posts as your only source of “official policy.”
Second: Be as fully informed as possible when making decisions that could affect your freedom. (Not to mention your mellow.)
Flying with Medical Cannabis
The TSA website states that, “Whether or not marijuana is considered legal under local laws is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law. Federal government law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.” The ambiguous wording of a footnote creates further confusion and concern: “The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”
What’s the potential worry? If you have cannabis products or any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, the TSA will alert local law enforcement officials to deal with the matter. Depending on the state, you may be subject to arrest. While airports like Boston, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle-Tacoma allow small amounts of cannabis (but not consumption) on airport property, their jurisdiction ends at the TSA checkpoint.
Traveling with CBD Products
The TSA is transitioning into allowing people to fly with hemp derived CBD products that contain less than .03 percent THC levels. Unfortunately, this does not mean you won’t encounter turbulence at TSA security when traveling with CBD.
Marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by the FDA. Once again: TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities.
The FDA has just begun the regulatory process for CBD products, so currently there are no “FDA approved products” other than Epidiolex for epilepsy. Interpreting this with an abundance of caution: if you’re discretely carrying a CBD tincture, gummie, balm or lotion that contains less than .03 percent THC, then the risk of confiscation and/or arrest is probably minimal. (But it remains a risk.)
If you’re carrying a CBD vape pen, this may raise the risk of the TSA confiscating it and contacting local police. TSA security officers may not know or understand that you can vape hemp-based CBD oil, so they may incorrectly assume it’s a traditional cannabis vape pen containing THC. Also, if the packaging or label of any CBD product contains images of a hemp or cannabis leaf, this may lead to confusion and potential problems.
Illegal Under Federal Law?
In the end, TSA officers are trying to keep the flying public safe and taking your cannabis is not their priority. But you can’t ignore that flying with THC runs the risk of confiscation or even arrest by local authorities. Flying with CBD products in your carry-on bag will become easier over time, but it’s still a grey area: your travel plans could be delayed by having to explain the difference between CBD and THC products.
Ask yourself whether it’s better to simply purchase cannabis or hemp products at your destination. If you choose to travel with them, discretion is a wise move, as is treating TSA officers with kindness and respect. Remember, when it comes to making something an issue, “The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”
Have you gone through a TSA checkpoint with cannabis, hemp or CBD products? What was your strategy for keeping your wellness mellow? Share your experience with us. Login and comment or post it on our social channels.
Karl Phillips writes about the cannabis community from Los Angeles, California.