Is It Illegal To Fly Out Of New York State With Marijuana?
It's 4/20, a "marijuana holiday" of sorts. So I figured we should take a look at the legalities of flying with cannabis, now that adult-use is legal in New York State. Flying can be a tricky subject since most airports are federally regulated and have federal employees - Transportation Security Administration agents - that regulate our comings and goings at airports in the state.
First, just for hits and giggles, let's check out where 4/20 originated since marijuana consumers across the country are celebrating it today. According to Time,
The most credible story traces 4/20 to Marin County, Calif. In 1971, five students at San Rafael High School would meet at 4:20 p.m. by the campus’ statue of chemist Louis Pasteur to partake. They chose that specific time because extracurricular activities had usually ended by then. This group — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich — became known as the “Waldos” because they met at a wall. They would say “420” to each other as code for marijuana.
Now let's get to the issue at hand - is it illegal to fly with marijuana in New York State?
The Federal agency that secures airports in the United States - TSA - weighed in on flying with marijuana on Instagram,
Are we cool? We like to think we’re cool. 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: 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.
In New York State, Bart R. Johnson, who is the federal security director for 15 Upstate airports, said,
We don't seize it. We just look for threats — explosives, knives, guns; we don't look for illegally possessed narcotics. When we notice something suspicious on a pat-down or something like that and then we discover that it's marijuana ... so we're looking to see if it's a threat. ... If it turns out to be something that appears to be an illegal substance, we notify law enforcement.
Keep in mind that New York legalized up to three ounces, so flying with more than that may be considered trafficking and put you outside of the "personal use" threshold.
According to FindLaw, the canines at the airport are most likely not searching for drugs,
The K9 units you see sniffing around at the airport are likely not there to search travelers for marijuana or other illicit substances. While the dogs are certainly capable of detecting cannabis, these units are mainly tasked with explosive detection, so Fido probably won't snitch on you — he's got a more important job to do!
So here's the deal: There is no clear-cut, 100 percent accurate answer - just a gray area. You can certainly decide to take the risk and see what happens, but if you only want to travel with marijuana knowing that you will not get in trouble, be delayed, or have any other unpleasant experience, you'll probably want to opt-out. If you do decide to risk it, The Bluntness offers these tips for travelers flying out of New York airports with Cannabis in their possession:
- Don’t put your stash in a checked bag.
- Divide up your stash as much as possible.
- Make sure you’re fully complying with TSA’s regulations.
- Skip oils, tinctures or topicals and opt for flower, edibles, or cartridges.
- Be extra aware of laws if you’re traveling internationally.