The Transportation Safety Administration has come out warning flyers that while its officers are not looking for marijuana or other drugs at checkpoints, they have to turn folks over to the law if they stumble across an illicit substance during security screening.
What are the details?
The agency issued a public service announcement on Instagram last month, saying, "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," the message said, weaving in a little weed lingo, "TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats."
"But," the caption continued, "in the event a substance appears to be marijuana or a cannabis infused product, we're required by federal law to notify law enforcement. This includes items that are used for medicinal purposes."
Where did this come from?
While several states have legalized marijuana in various forms, the federal government still classifies the drug in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, Forbes reported. Thus, the TSA is attempting to clear up confusion among toking travelers.
"There are all kinds of mixed messages being sent, but that's because we have mixed messages in the legal system," attorney and consultant David Bannard told Forbes. "We've got such a conflict right now between states that have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medical use and the federal requirements that continue to make it a Schedule I controlled substance."
Enforcement varies not only between jurisdictions but airport policies whenever a traveler is found with less than an ounce of pot. In some places, a person turned over to police for possession may or may not be arrested, issued a summons, or given the option to surrender their stash without punishment.
Some airports allow passengers to sail on through if they have an amount of pot within compliance of state law, while McCarran International Airport in Nevada prohibits possession of any marijuana — even though carrying less than an ounce is legal in the state. McCarran does, however, have "amnesty boxes," which are receptacles provided for travelers to voluntarily ditch their weed before going through security.
Regardless of the variances in rules between destinations, the TSA's policies are consistent. Agency spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told USA Today last year, "TSA's response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport."