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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) made waves in September 2018 when they announced they wouldn’t confiscate low amounts of marijuana in passengers’ carry-on luggage. Instead, LAX would allow travelers to bring small amounts of legal marijuana through security. Before you head out of LAX with your marijuana, here’s what you need to know to have a safe flight.
LAX Honors State Regulations
Recreational cannabis laws were passed in 2016 after voters approved Proposition 64. The bill allows individuals 21 years of age or older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrate for personal consumption. LAX announced they would also allow travelers over the age of 21 to pass through security with the state-regulated amounts.
The updated marijuana policy prevent the Los Angeles Airport Police Division from arresting individuals if they are complying with state law. Travelers should keep in mind that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stations are under federal jurisdiction. Additionally, passengers should research the marijuana laws of their destination airport.
Tips for Traveling Through LAX With Marijuana
As long as travelers are carrying marijuana under the legal weight limits, they shouldn’t be worried about being arrested. TSA screening stations are primarily concerned with stopping security threats, not your stash of flower, CBD oil, or a couple of grams of live resin. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, TSA agents must alert local airport law enforcement to deal with the matter.
If passing through LAX with personal amounts of marijuana, the Airport Police Division is called to ensure whether the passenger has an allowable personal amount of cannabis with them. Passengers are more likely to attract the attention of law enforcement if they bring in large amounts of marijuana for personal use. Passengers should always ensure they are carrying under the legal limit to avoid being arrested for trafficking.
Scrutiny at TSA screening stations could take additional time, so it’s important you arrive at LAX early enough to go through TSA with enough time to deal with police. Additionally, you should avoid bringing certain marijuana paraphernalia like lighters or matches to streamline your time going through security screening.
Once you’ve gone through the security screening, you’ll need to keep your marijuana in your carry on at all times. Passengers flying on a plane are in federal airspace and subject to federal laws. While extremely rare, a DEA agent, for example, could arrest you if you happen to pull out your marijuana mid-flight and consume it.
Making it to your destination is only one part of your journey. LAX may have loose marijuana policies, but that may not be the case for your destination airport. Some states and countries have harsh penalties for those found in possession of marijuana products, even if the passenger has a valid medical card.
Conflicting Airport Policies
Airports around the country are adopting unique marijuana policies to deal with the increase in passengers traveling with legal marijuana. For example, at Denver International Airport and McCarran International Airport, passengers aren’t allowed to carry marijuana despite the plant being legal in their respective states of Colorado and Nevada. McCarran in Las Vegas has marijuana amnesty boxes for travelers to drop their marijuana before TSA checkpoints.
Other airports are instituting relaxed marijuana policies like LAX’s. Seattle-Tacoma Airport also allows adults over 21 to carry marijuana as long as it’s under the legal limit. Portland International Airport allows passengers to carry marijuana under the legal limit only if they are flying within the state. All airports, however, are also subject to federal law at TSA stations and while flying.
Marijuana Smuggling Arrests are Up By 166 Percent
Despite California’s relaxed cannabis laws, trafficking arrests for marijuana have increased 166 percent at LAX. Regulators believe that the overproduction of marijuana has led to an increase in black market revenue in California and beyond. In 2018, LAX made 101 trafficking arrests compared with 38 arrests in 2017 and 20 in 2016. Trafficking arrests may be up, but carrying under the legal limit won’t get you arrested.
Traffickers stopped at a California airport with two checked bags full of cannabis are subject to minor consequences including a misdemeanor charge for someone without a history of drug or violence-related arrests. As long as passengers don’t bring amounts exceeding the state limits, passengers are free to travel with legal marijuana.
Airports across the country are adopting more lenient policies toward passengers traveling with legal marijuana. Many airports are no longer using valuable law enforcement resources to arrest travelers with personal amounts of marijuana. Of course, laws vary by state, so it’s important to remain up-to-date with marijuana laws from your outgoing and arrival airports.
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