Flying With Weed: TSA Marijuana Rules Explained
As those with an affinity for marijuana – or pop culture aficionados – can tell you, April 20, or 4/20, might as well be a national holiday.
That’s the day cannabis lovers celebrate the legendary weed. Legend has it that the most plausible historical origin of 4/20 came from the 1970s, when a group of California teenage buddies met each day at 4:20 p.m. to smoke marijuana, with the ritual soon spreading from there and the time stamp simply evolving to 4/20.
Of course, what was taboo 50 years ago is more accepted today. Medical marijuana dispensaries are nationwide, and most states have relaxed their laws on how much recreational marijuana a person can have.
Ah, but can you fly with it? (And by fly we mean literally, on an airplane, not metaphorically.)
The short answer is, no. And, at the same time, sort of.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, “Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities.”
There’s your hard no. Marijuana is still illegal to fly with.
“TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
There’s your ‘sort of.’
It’s a risk you, as a passenger, will have to take. The TSA takes jurisdiction over airline policy when it comes to marijuana and will refer you to the proper authorities if they find it.
If they find it being the key phrase.
For instance, when the state of New York last year legalized the recreational possession of up to three ounces of cannabis, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein admitted the strange dichotomy of the interpretation of the law. Farbstein said TSA officers aren’t looking for marijuana, but have a legal duty to report it if they find more than three ounces of the stuff.
“There has been no change in the way that TSA handles marijuana or other drugs that TSA officers come across when they are performing their security duties,” Farbstein told Gotham Magazine.
Benjamin Branham, a spokesman for the Port Authority, which operates John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City, said:
“New Yorkers 21 years old and older can possess, obtain and transport up to three ounces of cannabis. Therefore, PAPD does not issue tickets, seize or arrest for this amount at New York airports.”
Another point to consider is where you are traveling to as a final destination. While society might be more accepting of limited marijuana use, only 18 states – less than half – have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
So while you might think you’ve dodged a bullet by getting your stash past the TSA checkpoint, you still might have to deal with state laws depending on where you arrive.
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N.C. Woman, 69, Arrested Outside Disney World After Security Finds Her CBD Oil for Her Arthritis
A North Carolina woman found herself behind bars after police discovered CBD oil in her purse outside Disney World.
Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested and spent eight hours in jail after security outside Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, found the oil on April 15, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by PEOPE.
The great-grandmother told FOX 35 Orlando that she uses the oil as per her doctor’s recommendation to ease her arthritis symptoms.
“I have really bad arthritis in my legs and in my arms and in my shoulder and I use it for the pain because it helps,” she told the outlet, adding that she had a doctor’s note in her purse.
Burkhalter’s CBD oil tested positive for THC, the chemical responsible for the high that accompanies marijuana — despite the fact that the bottle reportedly claimed it contained zero milligrams of THC.
She was booked on third-degree felony charges of possession of hashish, according to the affidavit.
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CBD oil is extracted from hemp, which is in the same plant family as marijuana but contains very little THC, and not enough to get you high, according to CBS News.
Capt. Carlos Torres of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office told FOX 35 that because the deputy knew CBD oil was illegal, he had probable cause to arrest Burkhalter.
“He certainly acted within the scope of the law,” Torres said. “[Buying CBD oil] is a risk because you don’t know what you’re buying. Just because you’re buying it at a store doesn’t make it okay, and doesn’t make it legal.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s laws regarding CBD are hazy, as hemp is illegal in the state, but there is no consensus among officials as to whether or not federal law, which differentiates hemp from marijuana, trumps Florida law.
Burkhalter was released from jail on a $2,000 bond, a spokesperson for Orange County Corrections told PEOPLE.
Though the charges have been dropped, according to Fox 35, the incident certainly put a damper on her highly-anticipated trip.
“We had planned on this trip for over two years and we saved up for it and we were real excited,” she told the outlet. “I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t feel like I’d done nothing wrong.”
Burkhalter’s lawyer Jennifer Synnamon told Fox News in a statement she was “very disappointed” by how the incident was handled.
“Why Sheriff Mina would support his deputies using their resources for a CBD oil arrest of a 69-year-old woman, but then won’t do anything about the gas stations, health food stores, drug stores, etc. that are selling it to the open public is absolutely beyond my comprehension,” she said.
Spokespersons for Disney World did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.