The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) now allows passengers to fly with marijuana in their carry on or checked luggage. The airport’s website dedicated a page to this new policy. It makes it clear that in accordance with California’s passage of proposition 64, effective Jan. 1, 2018, “the Los Angeles Airport Police Department will allow passengers to travel through LAX with up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and eight grams of concentrated marijuana.”

This is not a new policy. It was posted on their website in January and it applies to several other airports that fall under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Airport Police Division (APD). However, the news of this policy has recently gone viral on the internet. This is demonstrative of the ever-growing gray area of marijuana and how it is treated on the federal level versus the way it is handled on the state level as more states vote to legalize recreational marijuana.

Federal law states that cannabis is an illegal substance and while state law trumps federal law in many contexts, airports are another matter. Beyond the security checkpoint at any airport in the country, federal law has jurisdiction. However, enforcement of the law is the responsibility of state officials. Within the confines of the airport, travelers are likely to draw attention at the security checkpoint, where the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has federal jurisdiction.

The screening techniques of the TSA are governed by federal law. The procedures are focused on security and designed to detect any possible threats to aviation and passengers, according to spokesperson Lorie Dankers. TSA agents are not law enforcement officers. If a TSA agent discovers an item that violates the law, they refer the matter to law enforcement and they determine what steps to take next, if any.

According to Alicia Hernandez, an APD public information officer, APD officers in California have no jurisdiction to arrest anyone who does not comply with state law. However, it is important to note that TSA screening stations function under federal law.

To clarify, the TSA follows federal law, but they do not have any authority to enforce the law. TSA agents at LAX will continue to refer violations to APD, which can only enforce state law, even in jurisdictions where federal law rules. Therefore, travelers who pass through LAX can expect that is the TSA finds marijuana in their carry-on, it will be referred to APD, and if APD finds the amount to be legal under California law, the traveler and their cannabis will be allowed to continue with their travels.

The TSA and APD made it clear the policies apply regardless of the traveler’s destination. Neither agency gives any consideration to the destination.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Hernandez said, passengers need to be aware that marijuana laws vary by state and are encouraged to check the laws in the state they plan to travel to or through. APD, however, is not concerned with other state’s laws or whether passengers will be violating those laws upon arrival.

So far, APD is on the only airport law enforcement agency to enforce state law, even in the areas where federal law has jurisdiction. LAX and the other airports where APD has jurisdiction are the only airports to allow travelers to feel safe with their marijuana possession and transport, as long as California law is adhered to.

By Jeanette Smith

Rolling Stone: Is It Legal to Fly With Weed?
Vice: You Can Bring Your Weed to the LA Airport Now

Image Courtesy of skeeze’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License