Pot is legal in CO and WA, but not at the airport

CNN
Monday, January 27, 2014 - 9:30pm

Accidentally brought your marijuana to the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport?

Don't worry. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo plans to install amnesty boxes at the airport, possibly as soon as next week, for people traveling out of state.

"We'll have signs around the airport saying that although marijuana is legal in this state, it may be illegal in your final destination," DiSalvo told CNN. "This is an opportunity to dispose of your marijuana with no legal consequences."

But don't try to fly with that marijuana, not even departing from the pot-happy states of Colorado and Washington. Both states allow adults 21 and older to have up to an ounce of marijuana, but those policies are at odds with federal law. Leave the brownies at home, too -- even in states where it's legal, it's not yet clear how marijuana-laced food is evaluated under those limits.

The Transportation Security Administration seized 36 ounces of marijuana-laced food in a passenger's checked luggage at the Aspen airport earlier this month, and the federal agency referred the case to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, DiSalvo confirmed. (The edibles' amount of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, was much less than the weight of the food. The sheriff's office declined to press charges.) The story was first reported in the Aspen Daily News.

In fact, the TSA has called the sheriff several times over the past six months to report passengers carrying marijuana and related products, DiSalvo said. His office offers to dispose of the product before passengers depart the state. "Most everybody heeds our warnings," he said.

The larger conflict is between state and federal law.

While Colorado and Washington allow some marijuana use, federal law hasn't changed. And it's probably not a good idea to test the TSA or other federal agencies at the nation's airports. If they find a substance that violates federal law, they can refer possible violations to federal, state or local law enforcement in any state.

Still, pot isn't exactly the TSA's top priority.

"TSA's focus is on terrorism and security threats to the aircraft and its passengers," TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein wrote in a statement.

"TSA's screening procedures, which are governed by federal law, are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. As has always been the case, if during the security screening procedures an officer discovers an item that may violate the law, TSA refers the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement officials will determine whether to initiate a criminal investigation."

It can be hard to sort out the competing state and federal regulations, especially for the dazed and confused passenger.

The Colorado Springs airport has already placed amnesty boxes for people to get rid of their marijuana before clearing security or getting on an airplane. The Denver International Airport decided not to play with pot, banning the substance entirely at the airport, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport doesn't ban legal amounts of marijuana at the airport. That's because Washington state law doesn't allow facilities to add any additional regulation, airport spokesperson Perry Cooper said.

A word of caution to Super Bowl fans from Colorado and Washington: Don't try to take your marijuana to less pot-friendly states.

We know your (possible) cannabis consumption won't get in the way of the game, but consider where the Super Bowl is being played. If your pot makes it to your destination, you could be dealing with the Port Authority of New York and police guarding Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York and Newark airport in New Jersey.

How do you think will they react if your goods are discovered?

"If they're possessing contraband in New York or New Jersey," Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo said, "the prevailing laws would apply."

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