Medical marijuana & flying: If paperwork checks out, Denver Police and the TSA say, "Get high"
It won't make the body scans or
perverse groping security pat-downs any easier to handle, but medical marijuana patients traveling to one of five states from DIA can now pack their cannabis openly instead of, say, hiding it in a shampoo bottle.
In the last few months, there have been several stories about TSA regulations allowing patients to fly with marijuana from states that allow it to Maine, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island and Arizona because laws in those states recognize out-of-state MMJ prescriptions. There is even video of an unidentified patient toking from a Volcano vaporizer in an airport terminal:
Since all of the stories seem to originate in Montana, we wanted to make sure our local airport officials were on the same page. Carrie Harmon, TSA spokeswoman for the region, confirmed that patients have been allowed through security legally carrying their medical marijuana. She stopped short of saying it was TSA's call, however, noting that it's the agency's policy to contact local police if they find something they suspect is illegal during screening. "It's up to them to determine if passenger can fly with the item, not TSA," she says.
John White, spokesman for the Denver Police, said he wasn't aware of this issue having come up yet at DIA. He said if the TSA asked Denver Police to verify someone as a patient, they would "take every measure to make sure they are a valid cardholder," but added, "If they are in legal possession, we are in no position to tell that person they can not fly."
For example, if a Colorado MMJ patient is traveling to Arizona from DIA with medicine and medical marijuana or edibles are found during the screening process, the TSA would defer to the DIA unit of the Denver Police. If the DPD then verifies that the medical marijuana paperwork is legitimate, that patient would be allowed through TSA screening into the terminal and be allowed to board the plane with his medicine.
Once the plan has landed, though, patients have to follow that state's medical marijuana laws, which are likely different from Colorado's. In Maine, for example, possession is limited to just over an ounce. Also, while these regulations may make it easier to travel with cannabis, the plant is still illegal under federal law and no state medical marijuana laws have ever been successfully as affirmative defense in federal court.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana database puts patients at risk of federal prosecution, advocate says (VIDEO)."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.