Flying Domestically With Pot In The United States: A Web Of Confusing Laws


You've just landed for a conference in Dallas, Texas. You stand up; grab your carry-on in the overhead bin and your vape pen falls out. Uh oh, you've accidentally flown with marijuana from a state where recreational weed is legal. What are you going to do?

You'll be shocked to learn that possession of any amount of marijuana vape oil is a felony in Texas. That's right; it's a career-ending felony charge in Texas for possession of a product that you can have delivered to your door in California. Rule number one: Always do your homework for the state you're visiting.

But how did you get through security in the first place?

TSA and Weed

The Transportation Security Administration aims to keep passengers safe. They scan bags and individuals at the airport looking for explosive devices and other weapons. The blue-shirted security crew has the ability to detain passengers for being a threat to others while traveling. They do not, however, have any jurisdiction over drugs of any kind. And screening agents are not trained to look for drugs.

This may explain why you were able to board your plane with your vape pen without an issue. Either it was not detected at all, or the security agent detected the vape pen but ignored it due to jurisdictional issues. However, TSA can detain you for a local law enforcement officer if drugs are detected.

Local Law Enforcement

You'll be handed over to local law enforcement by TSA if you are stopped at security for drug possession. You will then be at the discretion of a police officer enforcing the laws of the city and state. This is obviously not an issue in states where marijuana is legal such as Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and Maine. It will be an issue to varying degrees of severity in all other states.

Flying Within Legal Weed States

The state of Oregon has made it clear that you are allowed to fly with personal use amounts of weed within state lines. And flying to different destinations inside the same legal weed state shouldn't be an issue. After all, you'll only be referred to local police if caught by security. However, flying interstate with weed means you are breaking federal law even if you're flying between two legal weed states.

Federal Law

Weed is still a schedule one substance according to the DEA and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. These are "the most dangerous" drugs with a high potential for abuse. The list includes meth, marijuana and heroin.

You break federal law by possessing weed of any amount. You break two federal laws by transporting the weed between states even if those states have legalized marijuana. Essentially, you fly at your own risk of being caught by a federal agent every time you take to the skies and federal penalties are harsh. But being caught by a federal agent is extremely rare.

Airport Rules

Some airports in legal weed states enforce their own rules. You'll simply be asked to throw it out if caught at Denver Airport and Vegas's airport is now displaying signs instructing passengers to dump their stash before boarding. These airports can enforce fines for possession with intent to board, too.


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