As cannabis legalization continues to spread across the U.S., the variance in marijuana laws between states is causing some confusion among airline passengers and creating a puzzling legal scenario for airports.
As of November of 2019, ten states have legalized cannabis for adult use, thirty-three have enacted laws permitting medical marijuana use, and fifteen have decriminalized cannabis.
While airport police adhere to cannabis laws which vary depending on the state, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must enforce federal policy which includes a blanket ban on carrying cannabis on flights.
But even though TSA has procedures for instances when cannabis is found during a screening, the agency is not actively looking for marijuana.
“Let us be blunt: TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs,” wrote the TSA on Instagram. “Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats. But 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.”
According to GlobalData Airport Technology, recent poll data indicates that a large majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis at the federal level.
A comprehensive nationwide program would help create more-even markets and provide airlines, passengers, and transit authorities with specific and consistent federal rules governing the transport of medicinal or adult-use cannabis on commercial airlines nationwide.