TSA Gives Green Light to Flying High With Medical Marijuana — But Later Reverses Position

Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 4:20 a.m.

The TSA appeared to give a green light to flying with <strong><a href=medical marijuana on its website — but the airport-security agency now says it was all a big mistake." />

The TSA appeared to give a green light to flying with medical marijuana on its website — but the airport-security agency now says it was all a big mistake.

Ray Stern

Transportation Security Administration officials seemed dazed and confused this week on the agency’s stance on flying with medical marijuana.

More than half of the states now have medical or recreational marijuana laws, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But the TSA softened its stance on taking cannabis on airplanes a couple of years ago, telling the public that it wasn’t looking for the plant or other illegal drugs.

On Tuesday, cannabis activist Tom Angell published an article on Massroots.com about a change on TSA’s website that seemed to indicate a substantial change in federal pot policy.

Instead of a “prohibited items,” TSA published a new section on its website on Tuesday called “What Can I Bring,” Angell wrote.

On the page, the agency noted “yes” to bringing medical marijuana in carry-on luggage and checked bags.

Angell called the change “TSA’s clearest indication yet that you can carry cannabis on flights.”

The blurb repeated the same caveat that the TSA published more than two years ago:

“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 legal under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law. Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.”

But as media reports of the change spread on Wednesday, TSA officials had second thoughts.

Leafly.com reported that TSA deleted the reference to medical marijuana just minutes after one of its reporters called to inquire about the change.

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A little while later, the medical marijuana reference reappeared on its website — this time, with “no” repeated twice in red for carry-on luggage and checked baggage.

“There was an error in the database of the ‘What can I bring?’ tool that is now corrected,” TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told Leafly. “The information that I provided to you earlier is correct. And do note, the TSA website had been corrected as well.”

For a brief time on Tuesday, this blurb on TSA's website gave a green "yes" to flying with marijuana in carry on or checked baggage. But by Wednesday afternoon, it changed to "no."

For a brief time on Tuesday, this blurb on TSA’s website gave a green “yes” to flying with marijuana in carry on or checked baggage. But by Wednesday afternoon, it changed to “no.”

TSA

However, the TSA still gives the same lines about not searching for marijuana, so the agency’s actual position on medical marijuana doesn’t seem to have changed. For people in Arizona with a valid medical-marijuana card, that means no bust even if TSA summons local law enforcement.

Technically, local police should not seize marijuana from someone who possesses it legally under state law. That raises the question of what TSA would do if local police do nothing about the marijuana, and the passenger puts it back in the carry-on luggage. New Times reached out to Dankers on that question, but she hasn’t called back yet — we’ll update this story if she does.

In the meantime, when attempting to fly with a personal amount of cannabis, the best option for Arizona patients is probably a good dose of discretion.

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