The Clash Between Marijuana Laws and Air Travel

The evolution of legal marijuana in the United States continues. While California and other states have legalized cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use, federal law, specifically the Controlled Substances Act, still considers it illegal.

Provided a resident lives in a state where pot is legalized, air travel presents unique challenges. Those who reside in California face particular challenges when they arrive at an airport to fly to another state where the drug is still banned.

Simply put, carrying marijuana onto an airplane, regardless of state laws, can be charged as a federal crime. The moment that the plane lifts off into the sky, all passengers are on federal territory. A bad situation can only get worse if the plane lands in a state where pot is illegal.

Severe Consequences for an Innocent Mistake

The policy of some airports is to allow the outbound passenger to keep the drug, provided that it is one ounce or less.  In California, the TSA is trained regarding small amounts of cannabis that can be possessed by adults who are traveling within the State (up to one ounce.

Going through the TSA line is stressful enough without an agent finding marijuana in a suitcase or travel bag. While they do not actively search for illegal drugs, the discovery obligates them to report it to law enforcement who have broad discretion on whether to arrest individuals or just take the cannabis and let you go on your way.  The length of the detention, however, even if not leading to an arrest, often results in passengers missing their flights, creating further inconvenience and expense.

Should a CBD product be discovered, passengers can bring it on the plane, provided that it meets FDA standards of no more than 0.3 percent THC.

Sometimes the simplest of oversights can lead to serious and complex criminal problems. While many try to “talk their way out of it,” the less said to law enforcement, the better. The ideal advocate to speak for you would be an experienced criminal defense lawyer specializing in cannabis and drug crimes.