Do Airports Have Strict Cannabis Control?

Stephen Andrews
22 Jan 2024

You can’t, but you can. Cannabis is on the list of items that you are not supposed to carry in your airport luggage, and the main reason for that is because it’s still federally illegal. But if it gives you any comfort, searching for marijuana is not a top priority for officers with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

There are many items you’re allowed to bring with you at the airport, but when it comes to cannabis, the rules are not that simple. Marijuana is on the no-fly list, and it can cause you legal trouble if you get caught with your stash in a place that has an active ban on recreational use. 

Some airports in the U.S. have cannabis amnesty boxes where you can dispose of your possession before going through the TSA checkpoint and hopping on your international flight. The Colorado Springs Airport was one of the firsts to install amnesty boxes, shortly after the state launched legal retail back in 2014. 

At Los Angeles International Airport, local officers do not have “jurisdictions to arrest individuals if they are complying with state [cannabis] law,” says an airport notice. However, the same notice also reminds passengers that TSA screening stations “are under federal jurisdictions.” In other words, you are kindly asked to throw off your weed, and you likely won’t be arrested or something. 

Airports around the country will probably maintain these and similar policies as long as feds delay marijuana regulation. TSA’s official stance is that marijuana is not permitted in your travel bags, despite the growing number of legal states around the U.S. The prohibition includes all products that contain over 0.3 percent of THC, including oils and edibles. 

Marijuana Not a Priority for TSA Officers

While TSA officers are required to report any suspected cannabis-related breaches to local, state or federal authorities, TSA’s focus is not on marijuana. Passenger safety and potential terrorist threats come in first for the agency’s officers. 

TSA has made a statement before that its officers do not target search for marijuana or other substances, but if anything comes up during the screening of the passenger, they are bound to report the violation to local law enforcement. Those authorities then decide if any further action is needed. 

If there is any action, that will probably depend greatly on whether you carry an insignificant amount of weed or more than what the state limit allows. 

Whether a passenger is allowed to travel with marijuana is up to law enforcement’s discretion. Whichever the case, cannabis products can’t pass through the airport security checkpoint once found during check-ups. 

Major Airlines Continue to Ban Cannabis from Flights

It’s not only that the TSA is officially against high flyers. Major airline companies also maintain a policy where they ban all marijuana products from flights, including those products which are for medicinal use. 

For example, Delta Air Lines has the following statement on their official website: “Although Delta Air Lines is aware of various state laws that allow recreational or medical marijuana possession, the TSA has stated that possession of marijuana, even medical marijuana, is illegal under federal law and that it will refer passengers traveling with marijuana to law enforcement authorities.” 

A similar statement can also be seen on the official website of American Airlines. The company warns that everyone who manages to board an American Airlines flight with weed on their person, does so at their risk. 

These warnings indicate that air transport is not very open about the idea of travelers flying with cannabis on them. It can be complicated even when you have a doctor’s recommendation for it. Still, you can guess at the creativity of some users, as people never stop exploring new ways to hide a bud or two with them. 

What Are Easy Ways to Sneak Weed at an Airport?

It’s much easier if you want to sneak just a little pot with you on your flight. Even if you get stopped for it at a TSA checkpoint, it probably won’t mean any big trouble. But carrying around anything above the legal limit set with state law, might result in a more serious problem with authorities. 

“To TSA scanners, weed is a sort of nondescript blur. Internal bodily storage no longer needs to be on the table,” writes the Thrillist. The publisher then continues to give some in-plain-sight ideas on how you can sneak marijuana on an airplane: “If you have a few extra joints, just put them in a cigarette pack and then put that cigarette pack towards the bottom of your carry-on.” 

If you want to sneak in actual buds, perhaps the following advice can work: “Empty any opaque bottle of over-the-counter medication like Ibuprofen. Put the weed in it. Put some cotton balls on top of weed. Put pills on top of cotton balls until it’s filled to the brim.”

Certainly, you can come up with a few more tricks like that yourself. Or screen the internet for more inspiration. Which doesn’t mean you should do it. 

Whatever you decision is, once again, just don’t forget where you are traveling to. Weed could be legal in the state where your flight departs from, and might be illegal at your arrival destination. You might get past a TSA checkpoint, but you may not be so lucky in a place where adult-use of cannabis is still prohibited by law. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Can You Take Medicinal Cannabis with You on Vacation?

- 8 Famous Travel Destinations for Cannabis Enthusiasts

How Big is Cannabis Tourism?

Stephen Andrews