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Is It Legal To Fly With Weed Out of LAX?

12:45 PM PST on January 4, 2023

One question we get, nearly more than any other, is whether or not one can fly out of LAX with cannabis on their person. Which probably says a lot abut the friends we keep. But anyway, with a new year here, we wanted to update you on the current state of weed on the wings. So what's the deal?

First, we'll explain it as if you just took three inverted dabs and need it straight: Weed is not federally legal. So N-O, it is technically not permitted to fly with weed. The official LAX policy is that you can have weed on your person inside the airport, but not while trying to go through TSA security. Hence the ominous signs reminding you of this.

TSA, the people scanning your bags, are federal employees. And if you're flying to a country where drugs are punishable by death, god help you, no U.S. law is going to change that. Not to mention the scary states where possession is still treated like it's 1953.

Essentially, there's a widely noted tolerance for people carrying small personal amounts out of the airport when flying domestically. As long as you do your best to keep your herb hidden discretely and not stanking up the joint, you have a strong chance of getting onboard with your small stash. That is not a legal right, though.

Authority being authority, there is no guarantee some drug war gladiator might not want to make an example of you or bust you to flex their power or kiss their supervisor's nalgas. And while Reddit seems to be filled with stories of people bringing ounces right in front of TSA-knowing eyes, try not to be a total dipshit about it, as there's always potential that you could be in trouble if someone sees/smells it. So you are definitely taking a risk trying to enter federal airspace with cannabis on your person. A gram stuffed into the pocket of some folded jeans, though? You're probably good, Al Capone Jr., always be discrete, be clever, and never make assumptions that you're allowed to do this. You're not. And don't tell anyone L.A. TACO sent you.

For a deeper dive, we've got writer in-depth breakdown of LAX's policy on flying with cannabis, which essentially lets you carry it in the airport up until the point you see the scary signs at the TSA screening area about not bringing drugs onboard. It's one of our most popular stories of all time. Enjoy.

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]AX announced back in January 2018 its policy permitting travelers to bring small amounts of weed through security in their carry-on bags with one big caveat: You can carry cannabis anywhere inside the airport up until you get to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) area. Whether you buy a personal amount of weed from a cannabis delivery service or local dispensary, you will not have a problem with it inside LAX. 

That’s where TSA regulations rule. While bud is legal in several U.S. states, it remains illegal on the federal level. Here in California, voters in 2016 passed Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Prop. 64, which made it legal as of Jan. 1 in California for people 21 years and older to have as much as 28.5 grams of marijuana (that’s about one ounce) and eight grams of concentrated marijuana for personal consumption.

Although the policy change took place when the law went into effect, not many people noticed until very recently, according to Assistant Public Information Officer Alicia Hernandez of the LAX Airport Police Department.

Basically, all LAX is allowing travelers over the age of 21 to do is enter the airport with the permitted amounts of pot: “In accordance with Proposition 64, the Los Angeles Airport Police Department will allow passengers to travel through LAX with up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana,” according to the LAX policy announcement.

So, what happens when you go through TSA and what happens at your travel destination depends—a lot. A look at this current L.A. TACO legal weed map of the U.S. will show you that pot is only totally legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia. And as far as TSA is concerned, any weed is still illegal under federal law. 

TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers told L.A. Taco that while TSA's primary concern is security threats if a TSA agent finds marijuana during a security check of your carry-on or checked bag, they will report it to airport law enforcement. "Whether or not the passenger is allowed to travel with marijuana is up to law enforcement’s discretion."

Dankers noted that the passenger’s airport of origin or destination is not considered.

"It is important for me to note that TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized," she explained.  "This also covers medical marijuana."

And if you do get it past TSA, then what?

There is your travel destination to consider. You should be fine if you're traveling anywhere within California or from LAX to Boulder, Colorado. But if you’re traveling internationally, or even from L.A. to anywhere in Texas, think again. After all, a traveler is still subject to local laws wherever they might be going, even if they carry a valid medical marijuana card for the place where they live.

So, study up before packing your baggies on your way out of L.A. Pot is still illegal on the federal level. We’re a very long way from the law on pot before 1996, when cannabis was illegal everywhere. In two decades, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana, and nine have legalized medical and recreational cannabis.

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, pot smuggling arrests at LAX have increased by 166 percent since marijuana legalization.

"Authorities at LAX say they are encountering more and more airline passengers who are carrying small amounts of pot for personal use, but the number of checked bags stuffed entirely full of marijuana has soared as well," the Times reports.

"I would say 29 out of 30 times they make it through without a problem,” a criminal lawyer named Bill Kroger Jr. tells the Times.

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