What’s the Phoenix Airport Weed Policy?

Medical and recreational marijuana products are legally allowed under Arizona state law, but what about at Phoenix Airport? If you're thinking of flying with marijuana, there are a few things you need to know.


Phoenix Airport Weed Policy

According to federal law, TSA security officers are obligated to report you to local law enforcement if they find you with cannabis. At Phoenix Airport, the law enforcement agency is the Phoenix Police Airport Bureau, so if a TSA officer discovers in the security screening process that you have marijuana, he or she will most likely call the Phoenix Police Airport Bureau to come and investigate.


What Will Local Law Enforcement Do?

In most cases, the Phoenix Police Airport Bureau officers will be interested in how much marijuana you have and—if it's more than the recreational limit of one ounce—whether you hold a valid medical marijuana card.


As long as you're within state laws, law enforcement officials may simply return the marijuana to you and ask you to get rid of it. Of course, if you are over the Arizona possession limit and are within the bounds of Phoenix Airport, you could be faced with criminal charges from the state and federal authorities.


Flying with Marijuana

Marijuana Remains Illegal Under Federal Law

While recreational marijuana is now legal in 19 states, Washington D.C., and Guam, and medical marijuana is legal in over half of all U.S. states, the plant remains an illegal substance under the Controlled Substances Act.


Under federal laws, marijuana products cannot be transported over state lines, even if recreational marijuana is legal on both sides of the border. And even if you have a medical marijuana card and your destination state offers something similar to Arizona’s out-of-state MMJ card reciprocity law, you still can't take cannabis across the border.


While this law is mostly cited with reference to driving across state lines with marijuana, it applies to aviation as well. Marijuana and marijuana-derived products are not permitted within aircraft. Legally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have to abide by federal law.


The TSA's Stance on Marijuana

Due to federal laws, the TSA can't outright permit marijuana in your checked bags or carry-on luggage. However, they also aren't obligated to search for it. As stated by Patricia Mancha, spokeswoman for Arizona and much of the Southwest, TSA's screening procedures are focused on safety, security, and preventing acts of terrorism, not searching for and finding “illegal drugs.” However, if they do find marijuana in a passenger's luggage, they are obligated to refer it to local law enforcement. [1]


On the TSA website, medical marijuana is listed as “! (special instructions)” in the What Can I Bring listings. According to the explanation, FDA-approved medications and CBD from hemp are allowed, and TSA will only report other marijuana products to law enforcement if they incidentally happen to find them:


“Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state, or federal authorities.


TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”


Important note: While the TSA allows CBD products with up to 0.3% THC as per the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, some states don’t allow any amount of THC even in hemp-derived CBD. Before carrying CBD oil onboard, check the laws at your destination.


Our Advice

If you have a serious condition and need to consume cannabis, our advice is to leave your medicine at home and buy more as soon as you arrive at your destination. Before heading to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, check your carry-on bag and duffle for marijuana and dispose of it or gift it to another eligible adult.


Where to Buy Marijuana Interstate

Recreational States

Nineteen states have legalized recreational marijuana as of July 2022, so if you're over 21, you can simply visit a dispensary at your destination and buy cannabis with your passport or a government-issued ID. While you’ll probably have to pay an excise tax, this is still cheaper than being caught with marijuana on the plane and receiving a fine or jail time.

Medical States

If you're flying to a state with a medical marijuana program, find out if the state has MMJ card reciprocity laws or if you can obtain a temporary medical marijuana card to use during your stay. Many states will let you pay a fee and obtain a temporary card that’s good for 30 days or more. The only catch is that you must have a valid medical marijuana card in your home state.


If you don’t already have your Arizona medical marijuana card but you have an Arizona qualifying condition, the process for becoming a patient is pretty straightforward. You can obtain a physician's certification following an in-person or MMJ telemedicine appointment and then register as a patient with the Arizona Department of Health Services. Then you’ll qualify for any reciprocity privileges offered in the state you’re visiting.


Don't Risk It

To put it simply, it’s best not to even attempt to fly with marijuana out of Phoenix Airport. While you might not get caught, the penalties if you do get caught can be severe. Instead, take some hemp-derived CBD on the plane (if your destination allows it), and do what you can to obtain marijuana within the bounds of state law when you arrive at your destination.


Medical marijuana is there to improve your health and well-being and not to get you into trouble. As long as you research ahead and travel to another cannabis-friendly state, you should be just fine.


References


Holiday Traveling? Flying with Marijuana Can Result in Confiscation of Drug, Nov 23, 2021 Updated Dec 24, 2021, ThisIsTucson.com

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