Is It Legal at the Airport?

Tips for Flying with Your Pot

Is It Legal at the Airport?

Last October, medical pot patient Lori—who asked that we not use her last name since she can be fired for using marijuana—flew from Sea-Tac Airport to California while carrying her stash. "I didn't want to get busted for smuggling or anything, so I called the TSA officer over, gave him my license, and let him know I was traveling with marijuana. He said, 'no problem,' and ushered me right through."

Last month, she did the same thing at Sea-Tac Airport, but instead of allowing her past security without a scene, the screener pulled her aside and called in a TSA manager, who then called in the Port of Seattle police.

"They took a whole police report, but they didn't confiscate anything," Lori explains. "They told me that in three or four weeks I might get a letter from the prosecutor's office, and there might be a fine."

But Port of Seattle police sergeant Jason Coke is surprised by the case. "As far as we're concerned, [cannabis] is personal property," he says. Although certain personal property is banned on airplanes, he explains, pot isn't, assuming it weighs less than the legal possession limit.

"This isn't illegal for them to fly with," Coke says.

Coke looked up Lori's case and found records of her driver's license, boarding pass, medical cannabis authorization, and stash of pot. He says port police generally report case outcomes to the TSA, and officers document the amount of pot—and that the person was legally entitled to possess it—to show the federal agency that police have done their due diligence, despite letting most fliers keep their cannabis. In Lori's case, no report was sent to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, and he assures me the port police will do no such thing.

TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers says airport screeners don't specifically search for illegal drugs. "If an officer discovers an item that may violate the law during security screening, even in states where marijuana is legal, TSA will refer the matter to law enforcement to make a determination on how to proceed."

Sergeant Coke suggests a few practical tips when flying with cannabis: Don't draw attention to yourself. Don't have outstanding warrants. Carry it on, don't check it—proving you qualify to legally possess pot is easier in person. And allow for an extra half-hour in case, as with Lori, police want to photograph your stash. recommended


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P_Orin_Zack 1
A long time before the TSA, we flew from St. Louis to LA with a cat on board and a stash to keep her mellow. The stash was in a left-over container, which security x-rayed for us before we boarded. In other words, we kept our cat high while she was high...
Posted by P_Orin_Zack on June 27, 2013 at 10:06 PM · Report this
Given Mr. Coke's awareness that the behavior with which TSA staff repeatedly call for his and other Port of Seattle Police officers' assistance is lawful, I think it's reasonable to expect hist staff to respond to such a call by arriving on the scene, protecting the harassment victim from further abuse, and instructing the airport security guards to leave people alone to go about their lawful business without further interference.

It doesn't sound as if there was any reason to suspect Lori of wrongdoing in this case, so it's puzzling that police would bother to investigate. I'm anxious to see the police report. Ben, have you requested it? If not, I will.

When one of TSA's airport security guards (who are not authorized to arrest or detain) is bothered by a passenger's lawful behavior, he or she typically calls in the local police for muscle, and police are typically all too happy to oblige. It seems the only way we can stop this from happening is by suing them, so that officers are held accountable for their actions, and so that next time, they'll think twice before doing TSA's dirty work.
Posted by Phil M on June 28, 2013 at 7:42 AM · Report this
#2. My impression is that it looked like some staff may have been adhering more to bureaucratic process (aka. covering their asses and keeping their jobs).

I'm usually pretty skeptical about this sort of thing, but honestly pot isn't something that most law enforcement officers really seem to care about anymore--at least in more progressive coastal cities.

I might be giving them a bigger benefit of the doubt than they deserve, given I'm all too happy to be an asshole and talk trash while waiting in line for my scrotum check. That usually gives me a little extra attention *wink wink*, but hey, it's not like I don't have another half hour to kill that I'd otherwise spend chugging beer in the lounge...
Posted by Xrock on July 1, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this

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