Marijuana legalization has created some confusion in Washington and Colorado. You can officially take your pot through airport security, but you’ll have to throw out the bottled water. With the new marijuana laws in the two western states, this is just one of the odd quirks to emerge.
Both states facing a challenge now that Washington D.C. has allowed the legalization. The biggest hurdle so far is the requirement that the states keep the drug from escaping their borders. A lawyer with Smart Colorado worries about visitors carrying small amounts of concentrated hash oil, which has plenty of THC to get the average high school graduating class stoned.
The legislation permitting marijuana for people over 21 was approved in both states in 2012. Federal law enforcement agencies have often said they want the two jurisdiction states to make sure legal marijuana does not leave their states. A spokesman said there has been no success in preventing tourists in Colorado and Washington from taking home souvenirs.
The focus of the TSA is on threats to passengers, crew and aircraft. They make travelers dump their water bottles, but look the other way when they run into someone with a minimal quantity of marijuana. When the drug comes through security checkpoints, the DEA is not called. The TSA usually hands the drug over to local police agencies who really cannot do anything about it.
Officials at the Aspen, Colorado, airport have confiscated edibles containing pot. One traveler was stopped with five pounds of marijuana-laced candies. The Colorado law allows people to have up to a single ounce of THC and officials speculate there was not that much THC in the contents of the candy.
One attorney in Boulder suggests his clients not travel on airlines with marijuana in their possession. The chances, he says, are too risky. A loophole in the law may catch medical marijuana patients. Denver’s airport marijuana prohibition means that those who have marijuana legally for medical use might get their drug tossed in the garbage.
The situation highlights the problem officials have as they try to keep pot from exiting their borders — one of the conditions the U.S. Department of Justice put in place when it permitted the marijuana evaluations to continue.
Colorado and Washington voters gave the OK for marijuana legalization in 2012. The current laws do not let people take pot out of the state and federal law prohibits possession on a plane or anywhere else.
The TSA requires people to dump the contents of their water bottles, but when someone is found with a small amount of pot, the agents don’t call in the FBI. Saying that the TSA’s mission is to look for terrorism and protect the flying public, prosecutors do not want to be bothered with such a small offense.
When marijuana is found on a traveler at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the TSA agents usually just hand it off to local law enforcement. Typically, TSA looks at the broader picture, such as asking if the passenger was combative.
Judging from the current situation with marijuana possession in Washington and Colorado, the laws can create confusion. But for now, it is best to become familiar with the laws in states where one is traveling.
By Jerry Nelson