Marijuana Legalization: Why You Should Be Able to Fly With Weed in Your Carry-On


There is nothing more exciting than a nebulous Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policy that doesn't clarify whether you will be able to travel with something without getting arrested ... like marijuana. Given the myriad states that have either decriminalized marijuana or legalized medical use, and with Washington and Colorado legalizing recreational use and the expectation that other states will follow, the TSA needs to create a policy that allows the transportation of marijuana.

Anecdotal evidence demonstrates that some Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) allow people to travel with pot between states where use is legalized. However, this is not always the case. TSOs work with the TSA, a federal agency, and under federal law marijuana is still illegal. If a TSO wishes to prevent weed from passing through security, they are authorized to do so. TSA policy says "the final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane."

However, TSA policy also asserts "in the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer." TSA agents, who "do not have arrest powers," can do nothing more than turn the matter over to local police. In states where marijuana use is legalized, there is no reason to bring in local law enforcement because the local law remains unbroken.

This sets up a troubling situation. People travelling with marijuana in states where it is legalized can have it taken from them by TSOs under the auspices of federal law. By leaving the ultimate decision up to the individual TSOs, the TSA has created a situation where local and federal laws can be arbitrarily enforced or disregarded.

More importantly is the effect this arbitrary enforcement has on individuals. People use marijuana medically to relieve a variety of symptoms. To confiscate medicine from a person who needs it is immoral. Furthermore, someone carrying recreational marijuana in small quantities onto a flight is not a safety risk.

Finally, tracking which states allow marijuana, whether it may be used medically or recreationally, and whether out-of-state medical marijuana permits are accepted creates a logistical nightmare that is beyond the scope of the TSA. Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, recognizes that the TSA "is not supposed to be an anti-drug agency."

Even if it were the DEA, confiscating marijuana from individuals who use it personally, especially in states where it is legal, does nothing to promote national security. It only harms individuals. As such, the TSA needs to amend its policies to allow individuals to travel with marijuana in states where marijuana is legalized.