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Is There a New Kind of Mile High Club?

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) released their policy on traveling with cannabis and it’s a little...cloudy.

As cannabis remains in this weird limbo between state and federal law, places like the LAX are enforcing state law to cover their own ass, but don’t get it twisted: This does not mean you can pull up to the airport and walk through security like Snoop Dogg (although that would be dope). According to the airport’s official site, “In accordance with Proposition 64, the Los Angeles Airport Police Department will allow passengers to travel through LAX with up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana. However, passengers should be aware that marijuana laws vary state by state and they are encouraged to check the laws of the states in which they plan to travel.”

So what the heck does that really mean? Prop 64 allows you to possess a certain amount of the drug as a recreational or medical user. Private property owners can decide whether or not they will allow you to bring cannabis onto their premises, which is similar to a restaurant policy. Are cannabis users at risk if we decide to travel with our medicine? We can’t forget that just this year our very own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, doesn’t think good people smoke weed, but with all due respect Sesh, you can go fuck yourself. Half the country is getting high and the other half is watching us (while secretly getting high). That said, us cannabis users should be able to travel with our medicine without fear.
It’s kind of like being pulled over on the road: are you going to get a friendly officer or one that hates life?
We’ve all heard stories of friends of friends traveling with ounces and never getting caught. A buddy recently told me that he traveled through the LAX and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) even went through his bag right in front of him—even joking about the potent smell—and let him go on his merry way. Then again, there are reality shows like Locked Up Abroad that feature people being caught commuting to other countries with illegal substances that capture what a horrifying experience it is. As soon as I posted LAX’s view on this on social media, I had friends warning me about being arrested in certain parts of the country. My response: Let’s be real, if law enforcement is using taxpayers money on cannabis dogs, then they aren’t taking crime seriously.

Since most people don’t just chill at LAX, this means you can basically travel through the airport, but once you hit security you are out of their jurisdiction. Now you are dealing with TSA—which is under the Department of Homeland Security and under federal rule. According to TSA’s website, “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but in the event a substance that appears to be marijuana or a cannabis infused product is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.” It’s kind of like being pulled over on the road: are you going to get a friendly officer or one that hates life? The policy of the agency doesn’t change, but it’s up to the officers discretion.

People might misinterpret this as LAX allowing users to travel with cannabis so I asked my lawyer friend Alexa Steinberg, Esq. of Manzuri Law, a prominent cannabis attorney, to clarify what’s allowed and what isn’t. For one, cannabis laws still vary drastically from cigarettes, meaning you’re not legally allowed to indulge in a bit of indica in designated smoking areas. “The statement released says nothing about consumption. In fact, Prop 64 does not allow for consumption in public.” Steinberg explains. “[You] can't walk down the street smoking marijuana the same way you can't walk down the street drinking a margarita.”
Basically, Steinberg’s point is that while attitudes about cannabis are constantly changing, despite these new rules, you could be putting yourself legally at risk. As long as federal law rules against cannabis consumption, legal states must abide by regulations at the same time as they bend to acknowledge a state's loosened boundaries. In 2016, cannabis-related arrests outnumbered violent crimes according to the New York Times. Still, more changes are happening on the west coast. For example, in Seattle, Washington judges recently voted to vacate prior cannabis convictions for those charged between the years of 1996-2010 which widely affected people of color. Over half of these cases, 46 percent to be exact, involved Black people. The charges will be cleared in November and is another step in the right direction for the war on drugs—and hopefully the rest of the country will take notice or be left behind in the legalization movement.

And at McCarran International in Las Vegas, they now have leftover cannabis bins installed so people can dispose of their unsmoked cannabis before they go through security. “Although both medical and recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada, it’s still illegal on the federal level, and therefore, illegal to bring along with you on a plane. So to help travelers dispose of their weed before heading out of Sin City, there are large green bins—called amnesty boxes—set up outside”, Newsweek reports.

But before you think about bringing that ounce of weed through the airport, ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. If you are traveling to other legal states, it’s better to just purchase when you arrive. Until federal legalization passes, you are still breaking federal law once you get passed airport security. Odds are, they aren’t trying to ruin your life or make an example out of you, but you just never know. You could end up with the TSA officer who worships Jeff Sessions or one who truly doesn’t give a fuck that you’re trying to get your Grandma, who has colon cancer, high when you get to Boca Raton, Florida.

For now, I’ll stick to getting stoned at home, before I get to the airport.

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