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Do you have a fear of flying with cannabis? It’s a normal concern because 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 TSA recently confirmed its flying with cannabis policy on its Instagram account, apparently thinking it’s 1977 with its choice of stereotypical language:
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 us be blunt: TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats….
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 law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.” A footnote somewhat ominously states “The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”
If you have cannabis products containing THC in your carry on or checked baggage and it’s detected, the TSA alerts local law enforcement to deal with the matter. Depending on the state, you may be subject to arrest. While airports in 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.
Flying with CBD Products
The TSA is transitioning into allowing people to fly with CBD products made from hemp that contain less than .03 percent THC. Unfortunately, this does not mean you won’t encounter turbulence at TSA security:
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…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. Reading between the lines, if you’re discretely carrying a CBD tincture, gummy, balm or lotion that contains less than .03 percent THC, then the risk of confiscation and/or arrest are probably minimal. If you’re carrying a CBD vape pen, this may raise the risk of the TSA confiscating it and contacting local police. TSA 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.
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 depending on the state or the airport within it, traveling 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, and 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 that’s a possibility. If you choose to travel with them, discretion is probably 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 traditional cannabis or hemp products? Were you nervous and did it feel like an episode of Miami Vice? 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.