If you're thinking of traveling with weed in your baggage, here is what you need to know. The laws are not as simple as you might think. Basic advice for avoiding or reducing baggage fees. Free Consultation – Call 323-655-5700 – William Kroger aggressively represents the accused against charges in Criminal Defense & Crime cases. What If I Get Caught with Weed While Flying? – Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
Is It Legal to Take Marijuana on a Plane?
As far as marijuana is concerned, its legal status is confusing for many in the United States. The issue of bringing cannabis on an airplane is a perfect case in point. It is a federally illegal substance like heroin. Consequently, one would assume that carrying it onboard an aircraft is a prohibited act.
Conversely, you may think it is okay as long as you fly from one ‘legal’ marijuana state to another. Neither supposition is accurate as shades of gray continue to cause problems. This article outlines if you can or should bring cannabis on a plane.
Marijuana & Airplanes – The Law in General
Cities own airports. However, the federal government is authorized to operate them, and federal law supersedes state law. It doesn’t matter if you buy your marijuana legally. It becomes an illegal substance from the moment you show a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent your boarding pass.
Yet even then, the issue is far from cut and dried. The TSA is tasked with keeping planes and passengers secure. They are far more concerned about finding explosive devices than marijuana.
The TSA’s screening procedures mean detecting potential threats. As a result, they are not actively looking for drugs, so you could technically sneak through without a problem. However, the likely outcome is that a TSA agent will find the cannabis and hand you over to airport security.
The Amnesty Box
When an airport security agent gets involved, there are several possible outcomes. Airports such as Aspen-Pitkin County in Colorado or McCarran in Las Vegas, Nevada, have a special ‘amnesty’ box. Passengers can place their cannabis in this box and not face any legal consequences. This is primarily because recreational use is permitted in these states.
If you’re fortunate, a police officer might wave you through with the marijuana if you have a valid MMJ card. However, this is an infrequent occurrence. You are far more likely to meet a law enforcement official who takes a dim view of your actions. While local police may not press charges, the federal government could potentially get involved.
It is a felony to transport ‘for-sale’ weed outside a state according to most states’ laws. It is also a federally illegal act. If you are caught with a large amount, you could spend several years in prison. The majority of cases that end up in court are tried on a state level. This is better news for the defendant because it increases the chances of a favorable outcome.
What About the Legal Marijuana States?
Don’t assume that taking cannabis from one recreationally legal state to another (Colorado to California, for example) is permissible. If a TSA agent finds marijuana or another illegal substance during security screening, the default policy is to contact law enforcement. Your destination and location of origin are not taken into account. The response of the TSA to cannabis at the airport is consistent across the United States.
Don’t assume that taking cannabis from one recreationally legal state to another is permissible.
Will you be arrested in an airport in a recreational state? The answer is: “It depends.” Officials are lenient in certain airports, such as John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, for example. Therefore, airport police won’t charge you with a crime if you have a state legal amount. You won’t be allowed to bring it onboard, however.
The likely response depends on the airport rather than the state. At Denver International Airport, for example, marijuana is banned anywhere on airport property. It is a very different story at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
LAX Is Lenient Regarding Marijuana Possession
Cannabis has been legal for recreational use in California since January 1, 2018. On the same day, LAX updated its marijuana policy. According to the airport’s official website, Los Angeles Airport Police Division (LAPD) officers have no jurisdiction to arrest anyone in possession of marijuana. That is, as long as you carry it following state law.
At the time of writing, passengers at LAX are allowed to travel through security with up to 8 grams of concentrated marijuana and 28.5 grams of marijuana flower. The policy also applies to several other airports under APD jurisdiction.
Traveling with weed? Here’s al…
It doesn’t mean you can go through security openly carrying cannabis. A TSA agent can stop you and contact the police as per the usual protocols. The difference is that the APD will arrive and wave you through.
Also, you can be arrested for cannabis possession when you land. Alicia Hernandez, a public information officer for the APD, spoke to Rolling Stone magazine a few years ago. She said that the APD “doesn’t concern itself with other state laws or whether travelers will be violating them upon their arrival.” Therefore, please make sure you check marijuana laws at your destination before boarding the plane.
A Risky Business
For the most part, law enforcement is not concerned about passengers carrying small amounts of cannabis. Even so, it is very much a case of ‘carry at your own risk.’ If you need it for medical purposes, make sure you have your MMJ card and don’t attract unwanted attention. Make sure there are no liquids in your bag, and there’s a chance that your edibles will go unnoticed.
It is very much a case of ‘carry at your own risk.’
It is a bad idea to try and bring oils or tinctures on board. The mere fact that they are liquid immediately draws attention. Edibles are much harder to detect, especially if you make them yourself and package them like everyday food items. Edibles also have less of a smell. In contrast, you are more likely to get caught if you try to bring cannabis flower through.
If you are caught, don’t object, complain, or get angry with the TSA agent. There is no point trying to talk your way out of the situation. Make sure you display your MMJ card if you have it. There is no real defense for interstate transportation, so stay silent, and ask for an attorney if you get arrested.
Is It Legal to Take Weed on a Plane? Final Thoughts
The issue of whether or not you can bring cannabis on a plane is straightforward if you look at a strictly legal definition. Airports are under federal purview. Marijuana is a federally illegal substance. Therefore, you can’t legally bring marijuana through airport security.
Is It Illegal To Bring Weed Seeds On A Plane
The two largest countries that allow adults to purchase, possess, and consume recreational marijuana (cannabis), Canada and the US, have very different laws and regulations when it comes to air travel. Anyone who plans to travel by air in either of these two countries should be aware of some of those laws and regulations, as well as some of the important differences between how the two countries deal with recreational marijuana. The following are some of the questions that an air traveler may ask about marijuana when it comes to air travel in the US and Canada.
For some of the questions, the answers may be different depending on which country is involved.
Basic questions and answers
Can I bring marijuana to the airport?
US: Maybe. It is only legal to do so in those jurisdiction where it is legal to possess marijuana. It depends on what you plan on doing once you are at the airport. If you are flying and have to go past security screening, marijuana is not allowed. The secure part of the airport, which is the area beyond TSA screening, is under federal control, and marijuana is not allowed in any area under federal jurisdiction, including aircraft and aircraft boarding areas. If the airport is in a state that allows the possession of marijuana, the state or local jurisdiction may have less restrictive rules in the non-secure area of the airport. However, some airports may choose to ban marijuana from all airport property. If this is not the case, then you may possess marijuana so long as you stay outside of the secure areas of the airport and don’t go through the TSA screening stations.
Canada: Yes, but with one exception. Canada does not allow marijuana to cross any international border, so marijuana is not allowed in any section of the airport where you first have to pass through customs.
Can I bring marijuana on the plane?
US: No. You are not allowed to bring marijuana on the plane. All aircraft in the US operate under federal laws and regulation, and the transport of marijuana by air is prohibited.
Canada: Yes, but only if the aircraft is on a domestic flight within Canada. Marijuana is not allowed on any international flight to or from Canada.
What happens if my plane is diverted to the US or Canada?
US: The aircraft, including all passengers, crew, baggage, and cargo would be under US jurisdiction, and anyone in possession of marijuana may be subject to US laws, which could include, fines, arrest, and being refused entry into the US in the future.
Canada: It is illegal to import marijuana into Canada, so if you have marijuana or products containing marijuana with you, you must declare them to the Canada Border Services Agency
Can I put marijuana in a checked bag?
US: No. Marijuana is not allowed on an aircraft either in carry on bags, checked bags, or cargo. All aircraft in the US operate under federal laws and regulation, and the transport of marijuana by air is prohibited.
Canada: Yes, but only if the aircraft is on a domestic flight within Canada.
Can I mail or ship my marijuana before I get on the plane?
US: No. Federal law prohibits sending marijuana through the mail or through shipping services like FedEx and UPS. All aircraft in the US operate under federal laws and regulation, and the transport of marijuana by air is prohibited.
Canada: Yes. Marijuana can be mailed in Canada, but only to addresses within Canada.
Can I have my marijuana delivered by drone?
US: No. US federal law prohibits aircraft operators, including operators of drones, from carrying marijuana on that aircraft. This would be the case even if you are using your own personal drone. There are a number of US federal laws and regulations related to marijuana, many of which have potentially severe penalties for both the drone operator and the marijuana customer.
Canada: Other than crossing international borders, there are no specific restrictions on flying marijuana on a drone use other than the laws and regulations regarding recreational and commercial drone operations.
Can I fly after consuming marijuana?
US and Canada: Yes, but it may not be a good idea. While US and Canadian laws don’t prohibit passengers from flying under the influence of drugs, if you are intoxicated, your airline may prevent you from boarding your aircraft. Also, if you fly while intoxicated, you may not be able to react appropriately in emergency situations, and your behavior may be affected in a way that makes you a hazard to crew members and other passengers.
Because some forms of marijuana, particularly edible marijuana products, may take a while before the intoxicating effects are evident, if you consume marijuana shortly before getting on board, you may become intoxicated during the flight.
Can I smoke marijuana in a designated airport smoking area?
US: No. These smoking areas are public areas for smoking of tobacco products, not marijuana. Also, the states that do allow the consumption of marijuana typically prevent users from doing so in public view, including areas where the public is allowed to smoke of tobacco products.
Canada: Maybe. It will depend on the local laws and regulations.
Can I consume marijuana at the airport if I am not smoking it?
US and Canada: That will depend on the local laws applicable at that airport.
What is considered out of the public view at the airport?
US and Canada: That is up to the interpretation of the law enforcement organizations at that particular airport, and whether there are restrictions on the use of marijuana on airport property.
Can I fly with medical marijuana if I have a prescription?
US: No. Federal law does not allow any kind of marijuana, whether it is medical or recreational marijuana, on airliners or in the secure parts of the airport terminal (beyond the TSA screening stations), and it does not matter if you have a prescription for medical marijuana.
Canada: Yes, but only if the aircraft is on a domestic flight within Canada. Medical marijuana is treated the same as recreational marijuana, and is also not allowed on any international flight to or from Canada.
Am I allowed to fly into an airport with marijuana?
US: No. The US government does not allow marijuana aboard airliners, so if you have somehow managed to bring marijuana with you on your inbound flight, you have broken the law, and may be subject to arrest and prosecution by federal authorities.
Canada: Yes, but only if the flight was a domestic flight entirely within Canada.
Are non-citizens allowed to travel from overseas to consume marijuana?
US: Maybe. If your stated purpose of travel, either upon entry or when applying for a visa, is to consume or purchase marijuana, then you may be refused entry on your current trip and restricted from entry in the future. If the purpose of our visit is for another reason, once you enter the US, you are allowed to purchase and consume only in those states where it is legal to do so.
Canada: Yes. While there is no restriction on the part of Canadian authorities, you may be in violations of the laws or regulations of your home country, or of any country you enter after leaving Canada.
Can I enter or leave the country carrying marijuana-related items?
US: Maybe. Federal law prohibits the importation or export of any drug paraphernalia used to consume marijana. If you are not a US citizen, US authorities may confiscate items that are not not directly related to the use or production marijuana, for example clothing depicting marijuana plants.
Canada: Yes. So long as any items contain no trace of marijuana residue. Keep in mind that there may be restrictions in the country you departed prior to entering Canada.
What If I Get Caught with Weed While Flying?
With weed being legal in California, more and more people are showing up to airports like the Santa Monica Airport hoping to bring their weed along with them. However, many people may not know that they can still face penalties for attempting to bring weed onto a flight, even though it may be legal in California. What happens if the TSA catches you with weed?
Since marijuana is legal in California, the TSA will likely confiscate the weed should they find it during the screening process. However, they may still contact local authorities if the amount of weed in your possession is too high or if you are not of a legal age to possess it.
If caught with illegal amounts of weed, you may face penalties pursuant to §11357 of the California Health and Safety Code.
While weed is legal here in LA, the situation remains more complex due to the nature of air travel. We’ll discuss more in detail below.
However, if you are currently facing charges for possession of marijuana, contact us at 323-655-5700 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case. William Kroger is an expert in drug law and has more than two decades of experience dealing with marijuana related charges of all types. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin preparing your defense.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession When Flying in LA
The first, and most important, aspect to understand about marijuana and air travel is that the TSA operates under federal jurisdiction, not state. While weed may be legal within California law, the TSA is bound by federal law, and therefore could technically notify federal law enforcement.
However, they are unlikely to do so.
- The most likely outcome is that they will simply confiscate your weed. The DEA is almost never notified for cases involving marijuana in airports, and the TSA won’t bother notifying local authorities unless you possess large amounts or are not of legal age. In those cases, you may incur penalties which we’ll discuss below.
- It is still not recommended to attempt air travel with marijuana in your possession. It’s still illegal to possess marijuana on an airplane due to federal regulations. You also need to consider your destination; if marijuana is illegal there, you will likely face harsher penalties if it is found when you land.
Since recreational marijuana is legal in California, what would happen if an LA resident got caught with weed in somewhere like the Santa Monica Airport?
The short answer is that, in California, if you are over 21 and caught with a legal amount of weed, the TSA may simply confiscate it. However, it is still not advised to attempt air travel with marijuana, especially if it is not legal in the state you are flying to.
There are several circumstances where the TSA may still contact local law enforcement, such as when you break California state law. We’ll discuss this below.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession in LA Airports
If you are caught in an airport with illegal amounts of marijuana, or are not of legal age to possess marijuana, local law enforcement may charge you with penalties pursuant to §11357 of the California Health and Safety Code (HSC):
- If you possess less than 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (wax, oil, or resin) and you are:
- Over 21 – possession is legal
- Over 18 but under 21 – punishable by a fine up to $100
- Under 18 – punishable by a four hours of drug counseling and up to 10 hours of community service
- If you possess more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis and you are:
- Over 21 – punishable by a misdemeanor and up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $500
- Over 18 but under 21 – punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $500, or both
- Under 18 – punishable by up to 10 hours of drug counseling and up to 60 hours community service
No. Medical exemptions for cannabis are irrelevant outside of the state in which the exemption is issued, and airplanes are under federal jurisdiction so there are no exemptions to the illegality of cannabis.
If you are flying between states, then your medical marijuana card will likely not be valid in the state you are traveling to anyway.
What if I’m Flying Between Two States Where Weed is Legal?
It is still illegal even if you are traveling between states where weed is legal. The airplane you are traveling on is technically under federal jurisdiction where cannabis is illegal.
Instances where travelers are caught attempting to cross state lines with drugs can be prosecuted more harshly and with larger penalties. This is why, even though the TSA may not find it, it is not wise to attempt travel across state lines with marijuana in your possession.
Will the TSA Find Weed in My Checked Bag?
Probably. It is more likely that the TSA will find weed in your checked luggage because checked bags are randomly searched at a higher rate than carry-ons. Just like you, your checked bag goes through a number of screening procedures to ensure there is nothing illegal or dangerous in it.
If you try to hide large amounts of marijuana in your bag, you may be detained when you land and exit the plane. Your cannabis will likely be confiscated and you may be faced with legal action for the possession of large amounts of marijuana, especially if you are travelling to a state where it is illegal.
Can I Take Hash/Oil/Edibles on a Plane?
No, you cannot take any form of cannabis on a plane. Hash, oil, resin, wax, and edibles are all considered forms of concentrated cannabis, which is regulated under the same laws as flower, but possession limits are lower.
In California, you may only legally possess 8 grams of concentrated cannabis compared to 28.5 grams of flower cannabis.
Does the TSA Look for Marijuana?
In an Instagram post on the TSA’s official account, they clarified that TSA screening procedures are focused on identifying potential threats to airport security, and, as such, TSA officers do not specifically search for marijuana during the screening process.
However, just because they aren’t looking for it doesn’t mean they won’t find it. TSA screening procedures regularly reveal drugs of many types. There may also be sniffing dogs present at the airport.
In California, drug dogs and their handlers likely won’t do much with personal amounts of marijuana other than simply confiscating it for disposal. Still, it’s safer not to take that gamble and leave your weed at home when traveling.
What if I am Found with Weed After Landing in LA?
If you are found with legal amounts of weed after landing in LA and are on your way to exit the airport, they won’t do anything. You are unlikely to be found in the first place since arriving passengers are not typically screened at all.
Realistically, you are on California soil with an amount that is legal in this state, so they probably won’t care. If you possess illegal amounts, that is when it becomes an issue and you could be charged as described above.
Marijuana Possession in Airports
While you may not face any legal action for attempting to travel with personal amounts of marijuana here in LA, it is still not recommended to try. At the very least, it will likely be confiscated and you will lose it forever.
If you attempt travel with larger amounts of marijuana, or are not of a legal age to possess it, that is when you may face more serious legal action from local enforcement agencies. Still, you can rest assured that if you forget or accidentally leave small amounts of weed in your bags when flying out of LA, it will likely just be confiscated.
However, if you are currently facing any marijuana related charges, you should contact us immediately. William Kroger is an expert on marijuana law here in California and has successfully defended against drug charges of all types. If you need a criminal defense attorney here in LA, William Kroger and the rest of our trusted team here are your best option for a successful defense.
Contact us at 323-655-5700 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.