Traveling with weed still problematic

Staff writerJuly 8, 2014 

While it’s now legal to buy and sell recreational marijuana in Washington, don’t count on getting a pass through Sea-Tac or any other Washington airport security if you’re carrying it in your luggage or on your person.

According to the federal Transportation Security Administration, security officers who find marijuana during their pre-boarding screening of passengers and luggage at Sea-Tac will call Port of Seattle police.

Here’s TSA’s written statement:

“TSA’s screening procedures, which are governed by federal law, are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. As has always been the case, if during the security screening procedures an officer discovers an item that may violate the law, TSA refers the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement officials will determine whether to initiate a criminal investigation.”

Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper said airport officers will determine what happens next.

If the person is carrying in excess of the one ounce of marijuana allowed by state law, charges could be brought.

If questioning and further investigation uncovers a suspicious background, additional criminal charges could be filed even if the quantity of the drug is less than an ounce, said Cooper.

“If you’re carrying $4,000 in cash, and your record shows multiple drug convictions, we’re likely going to do much more investigation,” said the airport spokesman.

If officers are satisfied you’re carrying a legal amount of marijuana for recreational use, the passenger will be released, said Cooper. But those passengers will be warned that they could be arrested and charged at their destination, where marijuana laws aren’t so liberal.

Sea-Tac, unlike Denver International Airport, in Colorado, the only other state where marijuana is legal, won’t be creating “amnesty boxes” where travelers can deposit their marijuana. Colorado’s law allows large venues such as the airport to create their own rules about marijuana possession. The Denver Airport prohibits marijuana possession and use in the terminal. Washington law doesn’t grant such authority to the owners or large public buildings such as airports, assembly halls and stadiums.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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