According to the Transportation Security Administration, if medical marijuana patients' paperwork checks out, they can board a flight with meds in tow as long as they are headed to a medical marijuana state that honors Colorado red cards. So...now that voters in Washington and Colorado have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adults over 21, does that mean you'll be able to fly between those states with your stash? Yes and no.
We posed our question to TSA spokesman David Castelveter earlier this week, and the response we received is somewhat ambiguous. Basically, Castelveter told us that looking for marijuana isn't a priority for TSA agents. In fact, he revealed that the TSA doesn't search specifically for drugs at all. But if marijuana is found during a screening, agents will refer the matter to local law enforcement -- who may care a lot more than the TSA does.
That's basically the same line we were given in 2010 by regional TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon. Back then, she confirmed that the TSA was allowing medical marijuana patients to go through security, and even added that passengers can transfer planes in non-medical marijuana states with herb in tow so long as their final destination is a medical marijuana state that accepts your card and you don't leave the secured gate area. States that allow medical marijuana reciprocity are Maine, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island and Arizona.
Back then, Denver police reps were caught slightly off guard when we asked for their response on the subject. But spokesman John White confirmed that possessing legal medical marijuana was not a reason for police to detain someone and prevent them from getting on their flight.
Keep in mind that once you land at your destination, you have to follow that state's marijuana laws, not Colorado's.
In his response to questions about recreational marijuana this week, however, Castelveter made it clear that the TSA is a federal agency and therefore doesn't consider marijuana legal under any circumstances. He ends his note, sent via e-mail, with a subtle reminder that the TSA still has the power to ruin your day, regardless of what state laws may say.
Continue for more about the TSA's policy regarding flying and marijuana. Below is Castelveter's answer in its entirety:
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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."
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Our interpretation of what all that means? If you're flying to somewhere that marijuana is legal, like Washington state, you likely won't get hassled. But always remember that despite what state laws may be, the feds still view your pot as completely and utterly illegal.
Oh, and try to be more subtle than this guy: