How a Cannabis Expert Sneaks Weed Past the TSA
By: Patrick Allan – Lifehacker – April 17. 2017 – Tips for flying within the US
So you’re about to hop on a plane, but you want to bring your legally acquired medical marijuana product with you on the flight. It’s a very sticky icky situation, but here’s what one expert recommends
If you’re thinking “Won’t you get in trouble?!” the answer is maybe. Marijuana is legal in a lot of places in the U.S. now, especially for medicinal purposes, and TSA doesn’t actually look for drugs—it’s not their job. There are no drug-sniffing scanners in those conveyor belt machines, and they aren’t chomping at the bit to bust you for having weed-infused honey. Their focus is on safety and finding dangerous items. Plus, the TSA has relaxed a little on the matter for a few years now, and some major airports are now even considered to be “medical marijuana-friendly.” For example, you can fly domestically within the state of California carrying eight ounces or less of medicinal marijuana or equivalent in cannabis product as long as you have a state-issued card.
That said, things can get complicated because the TSA is a federal program. Marijuana is still illegal according to federal law, no matter what a state’s laws say, and the TSA says local law is not relevant when it comes to handling such matters. They don’t treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana since federal law provides no basis for it. The whole federal vs. state law thing is a mess, but if you want to try and understand it all, Last Week Tonight had a great rundown of the situation. So what’s that mean for you, a well-to-do novice smuggler? Well, TSA may not be looking for your weed, but they might refer the matter to a law enforcement officer if they happen across it during security screening, even if you have a state-issued card. Then whatever happens is up to the responding law enforcement officer. They might confiscate the item, or possibly arrest you. This should go without saying, but try at your own risk.
If you are going to try, though, there are ways to do it right and increase your odds. Basically, you just need to make it so TSA won’t happen across it during routine checks, which is actually easier than it sounds. Over at The Cannabist, Joel Milton, the chief executive of Baker, a tech company that helps dispensaries build their brand and engage with their customers, shares his best tips:
- Don’t bring any liquid cannabis: TSA is always on the lookout for liquids of any kind, so avoid the infused drinks and elixirs. Bringing a liquid under the 3.5 ounce limit is better, but still not ideal since they’ll be looking more closely.
- Use odor-sealed packaging: If you’re bringing flowers, or even some edibles, keep them sealed in containers that don’t let any stink out. If they can smell it at all, you’re not getting it through. Pack it along with snacks and food items so it blends in.
- Don’t try too hard to hide it: TSA and their machines are looking for anomalies. As Milton points out, shoving a container of it into a jar of peanut butter is going to look very suspicious on a scanner. Same goes for shoving a vape pen into the battery compartment of your laptop and other such hideaways. They’ll want to pull those things out and check them. Milton says it’s better to keep the amount very small and to hide things in plain sight.
- Eat an edible before you fly: If you’re not comfortable flying with it on your person, just down a treat before you go through security. Just know your limits and don’t eat too much.
Milton explains he’s had his bags searched several times by TSA, usually because of an errant water bottle, but he’s had things hidden in plain sight that went overlooked. Remember, TSA are looking for very specific things. If they don’t see that stuff, they want to move things along as fast as possible.
Still, keep in mind, if it’s found by a TSA agent, things might not work out. But as long as you’re careful, not trying to smuggle a brick of it, and not flaunting it around like an idiot, there’s no reason you should have any trouble. TSA makes the final call on whether an item is allowed on the plane or not, so be smart and don’t give them a reason not to allow it.
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