With several states legalizing medical marijuana, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) may follow suit, but is finding it difficult to advance on whether to allow airline passengers to board with pot.
The TSA is a federal agency, so it is still required to carry out federal rules. Even though the drug is banned on a federal level, medical marijuana has been made legal in 20 states, and the recreational use of pot is finally green-lit in two states — Colorado and Washington.
Under the Traveler Information section on its website, the TSA lists marijuana (including both medical and non-medical) as a prohibited item. Although marijuana is not allowed to be brought onboard planes in carry-on bags, the TSA would have no way of knowing because officers do not check or search for it.
TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. 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.
Whether or not marijuana is considered 'medical marijuana' under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law and federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.
Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.
In the event that a passenger is found in possession of marijuana in a carry-on or checked bag, it does not necessarily mean that he or she will be arrested. “The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane,” the agency said.