What If I Get Caught with Weed While Flying?
With weed being legal in California, more and more people are showing up to airports like the Santa Monica Airport hoping to bring their weed along with them. However, many people may not know that they can still face penalties for attempting to bring weed onto a flight, even though it may be legal in California. What happens if the TSA catches you with weed?
Since marijuana is legal in California, the TSA will likely confiscate the weed should they find it during the screening process. However, they may still contact local authorities if the amount of weed in your possession is too high or if you are not of a legal age to possess it.
If caught with illegal amounts of weed, you may face penalties pursuant to §11357 of the California Health and Safety Code.
While weed is legal here in LA, the situation remains more complex due to the nature of air travel. We’ll discuss more in detail below.
However, if you are currently facing charges for possession of marijuana, contact us at 323-655-5700 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case. William Kroger is an expert in drug law and has more than two decades of experience dealing with marijuana related charges of all types. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin preparing your defense.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession When Flying in LA
The first, and most important, aspect to understand about marijuana and air travel is that the TSA operates under federal jurisdiction, not state. While weed may be legal within California law, the TSA is bound by federal law, and therefore could technically notify federal law enforcement.
However, they are unlikely to do so.
- The most likely outcome is that they will simply confiscate your weed. The DEA is almost never notified for cases involving marijuana in airports, and the TSA won’t bother notifying local authorities unless you possess large amounts or are not of legal age. In those cases, you may incur penalties which we’ll discuss below.
- It is still not recommended to attempt air travel with marijuana in your possession. It’s still illegal to possess marijuana on an airplane due to federal regulations. You also need to consider your destination; if marijuana is illegal there, you will likely face harsher penalties if it is found when you land.
Since recreational marijuana is legal in California, what would happen if an LA resident got caught with weed in somewhere like the Santa Monica Airport?
The short answer is that, in California, if you are over 21 and caught with a legal amount of weed, the TSA may simply confiscate it. However, it is still not advised to attempt air travel with marijuana, especially if it is not legal in the state you are flying to.
There are several circumstances where the TSA may still contact local law enforcement, such as when you break California state law. We’ll discuss this below.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession in LA Airports
If you are caught in an airport with illegal amounts of marijuana, or are not of legal age to possess marijuana, local law enforcement may charge you with penalties pursuant to §11357 of the California Health and Safety Code (HSC):
- If you possess less than 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (wax, oil, or resin) and you are:
- Over 21 – possession is legal
- Over 18 but under 21 – punishable by a fine up to $100
- Under 18 – punishable by a four hours of drug counseling and up to 10 hours of community service
- If you possess more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis and you are:
- Over 21 – punishable by a misdemeanor and up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $500
- Over 18 but under 21 – punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $500, or both
- Under 18 – punishable by up to 10 hours of drug counseling and up to 60 hours community service
No. Medical exemptions for cannabis are irrelevant outside of the state in which the exemption is issued, and airplanes are under federal jurisdiction so there are no exemptions to the illegality of cannabis.
If you are flying between states, then your medical marijuana card will likely not be valid in the state you are traveling to anyway.
What if I’m Flying Between Two States Where Weed is Legal?
It is still illegal even if you are traveling between states where weed is legal. The airplane you are traveling on is technically under federal jurisdiction where cannabis is illegal.
Instances where travelers are caught attempting to cross state lines with drugs can be prosecuted more harshly and with larger penalties. This is why, even though the TSA may not find it, it is not wise to attempt travel across state lines with marijuana in your possession.
Will the TSA Find Weed in My Checked Bag?
Probably. It is more likely that the TSA will find weed in your checked luggage because checked bags are randomly searched at a higher rate than carry-ons. Just like you, your checked bag goes through a number of screening procedures to ensure there is nothing illegal or dangerous in it.
If you try to hide large amounts of marijuana in your bag, you may be detained when you land and exit the plane. Your cannabis will likely be confiscated and you may be faced with legal action for the possession of large amounts of marijuana, especially if you are travelling to a state where it is illegal.
Can I Take Hash/Oil/Edibles on a Plane?
No, you cannot take any form of cannabis on a plane. Hash, oil, resin, wax, and edibles are all considered forms of concentrated cannabis, which is regulated under the same laws as flower, but possession limits are lower.
In California, you may only legally possess 8 grams of concentrated cannabis compared to 28.5 grams of flower cannabis.
Does the TSA Look for Marijuana?
In an Instagram post on the TSA’s official account, they clarified that TSA screening procedures are focused on identifying potential threats to airport security, and, as such, TSA officers do not specifically search for marijuana during the screening process.
However, just because they aren’t looking for it doesn’t mean they won’t find it. TSA screening procedures regularly reveal drugs of many types. There may also be sniffing dogs present at the airport.
In California, drug dogs and their handlers likely won’t do much with personal amounts of marijuana other than simply confiscating it for disposal. Still, it’s safer not to take that gamble and leave your weed at home when traveling.
What if I am Found with Weed After Landing in LA?
If you are found with legal amounts of weed after landing in LA and are on your way to exit the airport, they won’t do anything. You are unlikely to be found in the first place since arriving passengers are not typically screened at all.
Realistically, you are on California soil with an amount that is legal in this state, so they probably won’t care. If you possess illegal amounts, that is when it becomes an issue and you could be charged as described above.
Marijuana Possession in Airports
While you may not face any legal action for attempting to travel with personal amounts of marijuana here in LA, it is still not recommended to try. At the very least, it will likely be confiscated and you will lose it forever.
If you attempt travel with larger amounts of marijuana, or are not of a legal age to possess it, that is when you may face more serious legal action from local enforcement agencies. Still, you can rest assured that if you forget or accidentally leave small amounts of weed in your bags when flying out of LA, it will likely just be confiscated.
However, if you are currently facing any marijuana related charges, you should contact us immediately. William Kroger is an expert on marijuana law here in California and has successfully defended against drug charges of all types. If you need a criminal defense attorney here in LA, William Kroger and the rest of our trusted team here are your best option for a successful defense.
Contact us at 323-655-5700 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.
Carrying seeds in your luggage on a plane
I read a few days ago (cant find the post back unfortunately) that somebody managed to travel with 20 – 30 seeds put in his jeans pockets, spread over the whole area of his suitcase.
I will also be doing the same very soon, and will travel while spreading them in a few pockets in my checked in luggage. My question is, do you keep the original packaging or are the seeds removed from vacuum packaging before being put in the pockets?
Advice is much appreciated and also if you have any other ideas on how to carry them would be great. I am only going to have 10-15 seeds maximum.
I recently went to the Caribbean and had no trouble with seeds in my carry on/backpack. They were not in any packaging though. I use one dram vials to store them and had them all together. Easily over 50 seeds.
Coming back to California, I was gifted at least 200+ seeds all from a 30+ year veteran grower. There was NO way I was going to leave them behind. Everything passed through TSA and xray with no problem both ways. Enjoy and keep hunting!!
Could always go buy a pack of seeds from the store and trade them out. TSA don’t know what’s what and I doubt they smell as long as there’s no flowers mixed in. Or mail them.
Do not put anything in your checked bag. If the search it they will take them. I’ve never traveled with beans, I fly all over with rolled joints in my carry on though. I’ve never had a problem ever. Tsa does not care for cannabis or beans. If you’re nervous put them inside a pen. Do not walk through the scanner with anything in your pockets let alone beans. You’re more apt to be stopped if you have things in your pockets. They have no idea what cannabis seeds are to apple seeds. If you do ever get stopped which you wont. Do not advertise that the are cannabis beans. Too them they could be apple seeds. You will be a ok my friend. Just do not act special when you’re going through security and you will be fine. If they do take the beans if traveling internationally it’s because you did not declare them in customs. You have to claim agricultural items through customs and usually they do not allow anything because they are afraid that it could bring unwanted bacteria etc into the country. Best bet is to put them in a carry on, act normal and keep a zip on the lip. You will be just fine. I’ve been bringing joints with me on flights both domestic and international for years, way before it was decriminalized or legalized in any state or other country. Never once even gotten a look let alone a search. Or just mail them back. It’s very simple. Plus if it’s a gift under 25 bucks you dont uave to pay import on the package. Put them in a box with a t shirt and send that bitch off and you will be fine!
Back in the early 1980s we took 15 grams of hash from Canada over the border by car to help us enjoy our canoe/camping tripping among the Georgian and Florida alligators. My brother hid it in his mouth (seriously). We hoped he wouldn’t be forced to swallow that huge chunk. Lol
Honestly now that I’m older I’d never risk it again. The backwards USA is very strict at the border. I have a career that 3 years in an American prison would seriously interfere with. Not to mention, my wife might be a bit freaked out over it. I’ve heard stories (yeah just stories) that people have lost their cars and freedom while having a few seeds in their ashtray in their car, or a dirty hash pipe hidden under the seat. When you visit backwards, socially undeveloped countries, your best bet is to obey their rules completely when you enter and while you’re there.
Seeds aren’t illegal in the USA. If you’re flying in to the USA with seeds, you’re best off declaring them with customs. If you’re caught lying, there’s a penalty.
It is my understanding that viable cannabis seeds are NOT legal in the USA according to federal law.
I’d think declaring them at US customs would surely get them confiscated.
I have no personal experience with this, so I could be wrong.
This scheduling and definition seems to me absolutely ridiculous.
We cannot afford to let outdated and unjust laws dictate our freedoms and rights.
Lets all make sure we vote to change this any chance we get, as well as supporting our domestic seed producers and sellers here in the USA.
21 U.S.C. § 812 – U.S. Code – Unannotated Title 21. Food and Drugs § 812. Schedules of controlled substances –
Schedule I – (C)- (10) Marihuana
21 U.S.C. § 802 – U.S. Code – Unannotated Title 21. Food and Drugs § 802. Definitions
(16) The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.
In addition to hemp seed being legal, thc bearing seed for novelty, fishing, bait, animal food (non-germination) is legal.
Thanks for the link However these are the required provisions for said import. – from your link :
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the importation of all seeds for planting to ensure safe agricultural trade. Under this authority, USDA is providing an alternative way for the safe importation of hemp seeds into the United States.
Hemp seeds can be imported into the United States from Canada if accompanied by either: 1.) a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seeds and confirm that no plant pests are detected; or 2.) a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate (SAC, PPQ Form 925) for hemp seeds grown in Canada.
Hemp seeds can be imported into the United States from other countries if accompanied by:
1.)a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seeds and confirm that no plant pests are detected.
Hemp seed shipments may be inspected upon arrival at the first port of entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure USDA regulations are met, including certification and freedom from plant pests.
Ive never received these certs ordering from Euro, UK or Canada.
Which is why you still get the green tape and seeds confiscated if CBP catches your order to the USA. And declaring it without proper paperwork at the airport customs would probably have the same results.
Have you a link to any more info from your comment? “In addition to hemp seed being legal, thc bearing seed for novelty, fishing, bait, animal food (non-germination) is legal.”
Thanks, appreciate the updated info.