Marijuana at DIA: Public gets chance to weigh in on total pot ban rule

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Last week, William Breathes told you about a marijuana possession ban at DIA.

Turns out, though, that a new rule outlining sweeping marijuana policy at the airport has yet to be formally adopted and implemented -- and the public will have a chance to weigh in about it at a meeting tomorrow. Get the details below.

In the meantime, an airport spokesperson outlines the proposal, and why officials think it's important.

According to DIA rep Stacey Stegman, "there isn't an official marijuana policy now. Marijuana just falls into the typical drug policy, but it didn't really spell things out specifically."

The working draft certain does. "The rule we're looking at prohibits marijuana in all forms on airport property: consuming, possessing, even growing, because we have a lot of acreage."

That goes for medical marijuana, too. "If you look at the TSA's website," Stegman notes, referring to the Transportation Security Administration, "you'll see a list of prohibited items, and it includes marijuana. It doesn't make an exception for medical, since it's still illegal under federal law."

Why a total prohibition? "We're not going to facilitate transport across state lines," she explains. "We operate like a quasi-federal facility, and our airlines and federal agencies have expressed some concern. We thought this would make it more consistent for all visitors to the airport to understand, rather than having different rules based on what part of the facility you're in."

This last allusion dovetails with a recent Denver Post editorial, which maintains that medical marijuana had been allowed in the terminal prior to security checks. The paper argues that this should be allowed for recreational marijuana as well. But DIA officials clearly believe that a complete ban is simpler to enforce than a partial one. "This is something we've been working on for a while," Stegman says, "because of inconsistencies at various airports and inconsistencies with law enforcement." For example, she points out that "federal law enforcement responds to some things, and city law enforcement responds to other things."

As written, the rule "lets the airport issue an administrative citation," Stegman allows. "Normal criminal penalties would apply for larger quantities or if you're underage -- things like that. But the administrative one is a tool that we would have but wouldn't necessarily use all the time.

"If marijuana was discovered, we might ask someone to throw it away, or maybe put it in their car -- or they could be asked to leave. There could be a number of things that could happen before we would get to an administrative citation. But no one will be allowed to go past security with it."

Likewise, she stresses that "we're not changing any of our typical security or enforcement procedures" because of the rule. "We're not bringing in new drug dogs or anything like that. It will be part of our normal process through TSA or airport personnel if marijuana is discovered."

The rule will be spelled out at tomorrow's meeting, slated to take place from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the airport's city conference room; Stegman says the space is in the northwest part of the terminal, near ticketing. Members of the public will be able to sign up and provide comment.

Could the airport alter or reverse its course based on the response? Hard to say. But while Stegman says no date has been set to institute the new rule, "it will happen quickly."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Denver International Airport bans marijuana possession."

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