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Heads Up Tourists, Pot Still Not Cool at Colorado Airports

Even though marijuana possession for personal use is now legal in Colorado for adults, public consumption of pot is still not permitted and can still get you in hot water with the local law.  Once you step into Colorado’s airports, however, even holding your personal pot stash can get you in serious trouble.

“We have taken up a pretty strict rule right now, not because we want people to get in trouble but because we don’t want them to get in trouble wherever they are going,” Denver airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said of the airport’s current pot policy.

The reason for the airports hard-line is that taking marijuana to a Colorado airport and going through security though puts passengers under a whole new set of laws and regulations. Figuring out just what rules apply in what area is further complicated by the clash of numerous jurisdictions and laws that are in effect in the federally-controlled airport space.

“Airports were set up to be locally owned and operated, but they are federally regulated,” Jeffrey Price, an aviation security and airport operations expert at Metropolitan State University of Denver, explained stressing the confusing and often contradictory question of what laws apply where . “I think we are set up over the next few years to try to figure this out.”

An example of this confusion surfaced recently when a passenger tried to board in Aspen with 36 ounces of pot brownies.  Following current procedures, the spiked baked goods were confiscated and the passenger was detained.  When turned over to local authorities, however, the sheriff declined to prosecute.

The fact that the passenger ended up with a slap on the wrist, though, does not mean that trying to sneak some pot home after your Colorado trip is a good plan. Even if ultimately it does not result in charges, airport officials and local authorities say being caught with pot can make you miss your plane and ruin your day.

“Once the doors on an aircraft are closed, the passengers are under federal law,” Colorado Springs police chief Pete Carey said. “If they get caught with weed they can be fined and jailed.”

To help out passengers who don’t realize pot is still illegal in airports and on planes, Colorado Springs airport has set up amnesty boxes for travelers to chuck their marijuana without consequences before going on board.

Police Chief Carey also warned passengers that putting pot in your checked luggage can also land you in trouble in Colorado’s airports. “If passengers pack the pot and TSA officials find it, they will call Colorado Springs police,” he said.

Photo Credit: Pot Amnesty Box/The Gazette

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.