Pot Chocolate Pilot Loses Appeal

By George Khoury, Esq. on March 13, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a fascinating but doomed appeal, a pilot found to have flown with marijuana chocolates in his possession challenged the revocation of his private pilot's license and lost.

The story may seem like an open and shut case, and not just because the three pot chocolate bars were found after an emergency landing, but mostly because under federal law, which covers nearly everything related to aviation, marijuana is illegal, and transporting it in a plane is even more illegal.

Technically Bad Judgment

In issuing the revocation against the pilot, the appellate court explained that his bad judgment in having the pot chocolate bars on board merited the license revocation. That, because of the high security risks associated with flying an aircraft, that pilots who exhibit a failure in judgment by knowingly violating a federal regulation should face sanction.

On appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the pilot argued that mitigating circumstances should weigh against his license being revoked. Those mitigating circumstances include the fact that the pot candy was purchased legally in Colorado, that it was not transported for a commercial purpose, and allegedly, it did not belong to him, but rather to his then girlfriend, and now wife, who later stepped forward to say she put the three pot chocolate bars in his briefcase.

Unfortunately, no one was convinced of that last factor, particularly as the pilot admitted to having the pot chocolates in his briefcase when asked on the day of the emergency landing. And while a prior NTSB ALJ had reduced the revocation to a 90 day suspension, that reduction was reversed on review by NTSB before being appealed (and upheld). Fortunately for the pilot, at this point, he is allowed to reapply, as the revocation only required a one year wait before reapplying for a license.

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