Is It Legal to Fly With Medical Marijuana?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is it legal to fly with medical marijuana?

With marijuana possession now legal for adults 21 and over under Colorado's state laws, some marijuana advocates argue it's within their rights to board airplanes with weed if it was purchased legally, reports Denver's KCNC-TV. However, the Transportation Security Administration governs air travel regulations, and presents a roadblock for "legal" marijuana users, medical or otherwise.

So who wins the battle between state laws and the TSA?

Flying High?

Flying with medical marijuana can help patients manage their pain after they land, but it likely won't be allowed under federal regulations anytime soon. If you've ever traveled through an airport, you're probably well aware that the TSA rules with an iron fist -- and the agents are required to abide by federal law.

Although 20 states have legalized medical marijuana, pot remains illegal under federal law and is classified as a Schedule I drug. This means that even if you've purchased your bud from a state-licensed dispensary, the feds can still bust you on drug possession charges.

Since the federal government controls U.S. airspace, federal laws apply to all activity that occurs in the air. This even applies to the TSA checkpoints before you board. The TSA is a federal agency that must also abide by federal laws -- even if the airport is located in a state that allows medical or recreational marijuana.

So just like how they're allowed to toss away your oversized bottle of designer perfume, TSA agents are required to take your weed, too. Cue the high school bully flashbacks.

Up in Smoke

While patients aren't allowed to fly with medical marijuana, there are anecdotal reports of some loopholes. For example, in California, where medical marijuana is allowed, some passengers flying within the state have reported that local airports can be more lenient when it comes to flying with marijuana, according to the United Patients Group.

Another example: Rapper Freddie Gibbs once tweeted that TSA screeners "found my weed and let me keep it"; Gibbs claimed a note was left inside his checked luggage alongside the contraband that simply said, "C'mon, son."

On the other hand, the Denver International Airport has posted signs warning travelers that possessing, transferring, and consuming marijuana on the premises is illegal. Violators can be fined $150 for a first offense and as much as $999 for repeat offenses, Reuters reports; at Colorado Springs' airport, being caught with cannabis can lead to imprisonment, according to new rules taking effect today.

Regardless of your state's stance on marijuana, it's still illegal to fly with medical marijuana. So you can bring some munchies on the plane, but leave the herb at home.

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