Starting New Year’s Day, the sale of marijuana for recreational use will be permitted in California, the country’s most populous state.
What does that mean for air travelers who try to bring small amounts of marijuana with them?
That is a conundrum for the state’s airports, which are locally owned and operated but are subject to federal law, under which marijuana is an illegal substance. Areas beyond security checkpoints are under federal control.
“It’s going to be a very gray area,” said officer Rob Pedregon, a spokesman for the police force at Los Angeles International Airport, the nation’s second busiest airport.
“We’re still in the state of California,” he said. “Open that [airplane] door on the other end” and passengers are subject to a whole different set of local laws.
The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of screening passengers, isn’t specifically looking for drugs that are illegal under federal law, a spokesman said. Agents are on the lookout for weapons and explosives, however.
But if TSA agents do spot pot in traveler bags, “law enforcement takes it from there and TSA has nothing to do with happens after,” said TSA spokesman Mike England.