Does the TSA Care about Traveling with Cannabis?

Time to read 2 min

If I was on the TSA staff at Denver International, I’d be pretty tempted to give pot tourists a hard time. This is childish and unprofessional—and a good reason I should never work in airport security—but if I needed a break from the stress of the job, I might try to make direct eye contact with the suburban teenager I suspected of having a vape pen mixed with the hotel stationary. For a good laugh, all you’d have to do is remind them that cannabis is forbidden at the airport, and that you’re a federal agent. Hilarious, right?

Of course, the actual protocol for these items is remarkably boring. Cannabis—especially in small amounts—is simply not a priority for the wonderful men and women who protect our nation’s airliners, and while agents are required to report any suspected violations of federal law, this really isn’t the focus for people who are busy looking for guns, knives, or sippable bomb water.

The TSA website clearly states that officers do not look for cannabis or other drugs, and even if they do find contraband, they don’t have the authority to make an arrest. Though TSA may refer contraband to local police, federal enforcement is rare, and CBD products are completely legal, provided they contain 0.3 percent THC or less.

Before heading to the airport, travelers in Colorado will have to dispose of whatever they purchased from the downtown dispensary. There’s no penalty for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana—TSA will just make you throw it away—but more than that is a petty offense, more than two ounces is a misdemeanor, and more than 12 ounces is a felony. The rules are slightly more strict in Nevada, where officers will not only confiscate any cannabis they find but issue a citation. Reno and Las Vegas actually offer “amnesty boxes” for disposing of whatever’s on you, and if authorities find you’re carrying more than an ounce of pot, you’re likely to be arrested, and charged with a felony.

In Oregon, it’s legal to carry up to an ounce of marijuana, though this only applies to in-state travelers. Remember: TSA staff are likely to check your boarding pass. Even if you’re flying to a state where cannabis is legal, they will confiscate your stash, and charge you with a Class B violation if you’re carrying one-to-two ounces, or a misdemeanor if you’re holding more.

Does the TSA Care about Traveling with Cannabis?

It’s also legal to possess marijuana in Washington State’s airports—but again, this only applies to in-state travelers. Holding more than an ounce is a misdemeanor, and holding more than 40 grams is a Class C felony. In Massachusetts, TSA agents follow more or less the same rules: arrests by the state police aren’t a frequent occurrence, but they do happen, and travelers carrying more than an ounce should expect a misdemeanor charge, along with a summons to appear in court.

Holding more than fifty pounds in the Bay State will lead to a felony charge—and probably some kind of award. Anyone traveling with this much cannabis has clearly gone for the gold, and if I was the agent who found it on the conveyor belt, I’d be sure to express my gratitude and admiration before calling the cops.

For the rest of us, my best advice is to relax and pay attention. CBD products are completely legal to possess. But if you plan on flying with something that contains THC, check the local laws before you pack, and you’ll be sure to have a hassle-free trip.