This is What Happens If You Get Caught with Cannabis at an American Airport
Right now, 10 states allow recreational cannabis use and another 23 have legalized medical marijuana, but the federal government still upholds cannabis prohibition. That means you can’t take cannabis across state borders, even if you’re going from one legal state to another — like from Vermont to Massachusetts. But what happens when you forget that you have a joint in your knapsack or other carry-on luggage when you board a plane? Is one measly joint really enough to book you a one-way ticket to federal prison?
That all depends on where you’re flying from and how strict airport security is when it comes to cannabis. If you’re only carrying a small amount that won’t draw attention with the signature smell of marijuana, then you’ll probably be okay. According to a recent Instagram post, the TSA “DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs” when screening passengers. So if nothing draws their attention to your stash, then you’ll be able to laugh off your forgetfulness later on.
But while the TSA isn’t looking for cannabis, they might still take action if they happen to find some in your luggage. The TSA says they will alert local authorities if they come across cannabis in your baggage while checking for other things. And that’s where this sort of situation gets tricky.
If you’re flying out of an airport in a state where cannabis is still illegal and a TSA agent finds weed in your luggage, you’re probably going to be arrested. But a number of other situations can happen if you’re caught in a legal state. For instance, if you’re flying out of an airport like LAX or Seattle-Tacoma—both of which are located in states where recreational cannabis is legal—local police won’t stop you from taking small amounts of cannabis on your flight. Oregon’s Portland International will allow passengers to carry cannabis with them so long as they are flying within the state.
However, states like Nevada take a stricter approach. If you get caught with cannabis while boarding a plane at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, your cannabis will be confiscated and you could receive a fine. To avoid that unpleasant situation, McCarran has set up “amnesty boxes” where passengers can drop their cannabis without threat of punishment.
But those sorts of rules and regulations can change quickly, and even the TSA could shift gears and start cracking down on illicit substances passing through airports. So while federal prohibition is still in effect, your best bet is to leave your stash at home.