TSA to Travelers: We’re Not Looking for Your Weed
“Let us be blunt,” wrote the federal agency in a tongue-in-cheek Instagram post. “TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs."
Published on May 6, 2019

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As America’s green rush continues to flourish and grow, state-legal cannabis has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction. But when pot enthusiasts from around the globe visit states like California and Nevada, there’s always one lingering question on every tourist’s mind: Can I bring home souvenirs?

If you ask the federal government, the answer is a resounding no, with a few exclamation points added for good measure. But then again, the federal government considers all cannabis use to be illegal, no matter what state you’re in. And when it comes to domestic travel across the U.S., there’s only one federal agency that you’re sure to run into — and it turns out they’re pretty chill (on occasion...). 

According to a new report from Forbes, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) posted a photo of a cannabis leaf on the agency’s official Instagram page on 4/20. The social media post also included a note to travelers, clarifying their hands-off approach to pot.

“Are we cool? We like to think we’re cool,” the TSA caption reads. “We want you to have a pleasant experience at the airport and arrive safely at your destination. But getting caught while trying to fly with marijuana or cannabis-infused products can really harsh your mellow.”

“Let us be blunt,” the tongue-in-cheek warning continues. “TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats. But in the event a substance appears to be marijuana or a cannabis-infused product, we’re required by federal law to notify law enforcement. This includes items that are used for medicinal purposes.”

So when it comes to TSA checks, America’s bag scanners are not actively looking for your hidden stash. But if they happen to open your bag to, say, remove a pair of scissors, and they stumble across a bag of bud, they’re going to alert local police.

If the TSA proves to be totally uncool and calls in the local police, the situation gets a little stickier. Since each state’s police handle pot differently, the next step will depend on where you’re flying out of. In Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, police are fairly chill with adult travelers carrying a legal amount of cannabis past security. In Las Vegas, cops treat each case situationally, but generally resort to a ticket at the worst. 

Of course, back in prohibition states, punishments for bringing cannabis across state lines can carry harsh punishments and no leniency, such as in Texas.

So when you’re cleaning up the AirBnB and packing your bags to leave a state with legal weed, just remember that the TSA is more concerned about 10-ounce containers of shampoo than it is with 10 grams of Cali kush.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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