Cannabis is now legal for either recreational or medical purposes in most states, with only Nebraska, Idaho, and South Dakota enforcing outright bans on the plant. But just because cannabis is legal in most states does not mean that travel with marijuana is legal. Flying with cannabis is always illegal because air travel falls under federal jurisdiction, and marijuana remains strictly illegal under federal law. Traveling by road or rail with cannabis can be legal within or between states that have legalized it, but if you get stopped by federal law enforcement officers, you could face marijuana charges.
Flying With Cannabis Is Possible, but it Remains Illegal
Aviation is regulated by federal authorities, so cannabis remains illegal on all flights – even those operating within or between states where cannabis has been legalized. Of course, this also means that you cannot fly internationally with cannabis, even to countries such as the Netherlands where it is legal. However, many people do fly with cannabis without any issues because of lax enforcement of federal cannabis rules at some airports. But, they still run the risk of facing federal marijuana penalties.
Nico Melendez, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, told reporters from the Cannifornian: “We’re looking for items that will bring down an airplane.” If TSA personnel find small amounts of weed while searching your belongings for explosives or weapons, the official policy is to turn you over to local law enforcement. So even though you were caught violating federal law, your case gets referred to local police, who will generally enforce local law – which may or may not allow cannabis.
At Los Angeles Airport, the police enforce California cannabis laws, so as long as you are over 21 or have a medical card, and you have less than an ounce of weed, you will not face criminal charges. According to LAX police spokesman Rob Pedregon, they limit themselves in such cases to warning passengers that it is illegal to fly with cannabis. At Denver International Airport, passengers caught with weed face a choice between paying a $999 fine or putting their buds in a so called “amnesty Box.”
Even if you’re traveling through cannabis friendly airports such as Denver or LAX, you could still be approached by federal law enforcement such as Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), or the Federal Air Marshals Service. They will not hesitate to arrest and charge you for possession. And if you get caught traveling with more than an ounce, there is a very real possibility of facing federal drug trafficking charges.
Traveling With Cannabis by Road and Rail Is Relatively Safe
Within California, anyone over 21 can travel by car or train with an ounce of cannabis flowers or up to 8 grams of concentrates. People with medical cards can technically travel with larger amounts. However, in the rare event that you get pulled over by federal law enforcement, you can be charged with possession, or even trafficking if you are carrying a large amount. The risk of being pulled over by federal law enforcement agents is greatest near international and state borders and in national parks.
If you travel by car with cannabis, remember that California law makes it illegal for drivers and passengers to consume cannabis while driving on a highway. So it’s never a good idea to smoke marijuana in your car. You might also get arrested for driving under the influence if an officer suspects that you are too high to drive. There is no objective way to measure cannabis intoxication, so these arrests usually happen at the officer’s discretion.
Call a Cannabis Lawyer If You Are Charged for Traveling with Marijuana
Charges for marijuana possession are getting rarer and rarer both in California and across the country. But this does not mean you should let your guard down entirely. You can still get arrested if you are traveling with a large amount of cannabis, are smoking weed in your vehicle, or get pulled over by federal agents who find your stash. In these situations, the San Diego cannabis lawyers from McElfresh Law can help. Call us today at (858) 756-7107 or use our online contact form to schedule a consultation about your marijuana charges.