Talk about traveling in style: Passengers flying within the State of Oregon may now carry small amounts of marijuana with them.
Officials at Portland International Airport announced in July that they would allow travelers to carry up to 1 ounce of cannabis when flying to another airport in Oregon. It is currently legal statewide to carry up to 1 ounce in public.
Even so, the airport was under no legal obligation to allow passengers carrying cannabis. Airports are typically municipal property subject to special security rules.
In Colorado, for example, marijuana is banned at all public airports. That means only passengers leaving private airports may carry the drug, and then only on flights that don’t cross state lines.
The new rule in Portland took effect toward the end of July. The city’s airport is the largest in the state and one of the busiest on the West Coast.
Marijuana cannot cross state lines
It remains illegal to attempt to fly with marijuana on any flight leaving Oregon. The drug is legal in Washington State, Colorado, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., but it is banned by federal laws, and transport across state lines is treated as criminal trafficking.
“For those flying to other cities in the state of Oregon, traveling with marijuana is allowable as long as that passenger meets all the other legal requirements of the state law,” said Steve Johnson, spokesman for Port of Portland, which owns and runs the airport.
Passengers traveling from Portland are free to carry cannabis through security checkpoints if they’re booked on in-state flights, Johnson said. If the cannabis is spotted by TSA agents, they will check boarding passes to ensure the drug won’t leave Oregon, and they will make sure passengers don’t try to carry more than 1 ounce.
It’s usually quite easy to walk through security carrying small amounts of marijuana, since the TSA is focused on explosives and other terrorist threats, not drugs. That said, getting caught with marijuana at an airport where it is prohibited can lead to arrest by local police.
Fully legal states have varying policies
Airports in Colorado already offer so-called “amnesty boxes” where travelers can legally dispose of cannabis before passing through security. Marijuana is effectively banned on all commercial flights originating in that state.
Washington State, by comparison, allows cannabis to leave at least one facility, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, as long as it is within the state’s legal limits.
Alaska has yet to decide whether to allow traveling with marijuana. Given the state’s sheer size and its sparse population, barring the drug on in-state flights could make it harder to get.
Alaska remains undecided
“It would premature for the airport to put forth any policies or procedures until we know what rules we’re supposed to be talking about,” said John Parrot, manager of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska.
Passengers in Oregon will have to dispose of their marijuana before flying out of state. Those who bring too much to the airport must throw away anything beyond the 1 ounce limit. Travelers caught at security with too much marijuana could face both state and federal charges.
Oregon voters legalized cannabis in the November 2014 elections, as did Alaska and the District of Columbia. Washington State and Colorado legalized in 2012, the first states to do so.
Though the announcement is good news for Oregonians, Coloradans and others will likely have to live with current policies, at least in the foreseeable future.
“We don’t have any plans to reevaluate our marijuana policy,” said Laura Cole, spokeswoman for Denver International Airport.