While local laws may vary from state to state, some airports in the San Francisco Bay Area allow up to eight ounces of marijuana for card-carrying medical marijuana patients. Police say the policy at San Francisco International Airport echoes the city guidelines used in San Francisco proper. The same goes for Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif.
However, in nearby San Jose, police say they don't make arrests or confiscate drugs but do send a report to the federal authorities. (That may change now, because last week the U.S. Justice Department told its attorneys to halt prosecution of medical marijuana users complying with local laws.) The policies show the disparities between cities only a few dozen miles apart.
While airport security often confiscates liquids and notifies police of child pornography or other contraband, Transportation Security Administration officials said they will not confiscate medical marijuana if OK'd by airport police. However, local police do notify a medical marijuana user that laws may be different where they land.
While many pro-marijuana groups are rejoicing at the prospect or traveling with medical marijuana, it ignores the real problem. If it's up to local jurisdictions to enforce local laws, then the law will be different at every airport in every state. We need airport and city administrators to get together and create policies and procedures to deal with medical marijuana so passengers aren't free to go on one leg of their trip and be arrested at the next. There needs to be posted guidelines at security checkpoints, public service announcements and education.
Many cities, like Long Beach, Calif., are already having problems ironing out their own policy toward medical marijuana -- something which they have always considered illegal and now find themselves in the position of regulating its use. The city is still creating guidelines for use and enforcement of the new laws, but most of the activity seems to revolve around hours of operation and placement of dispensaries rather than how it will affect passengers at Long Beach Airport.
Let's hope cities can rise to the challenge of creating coherent and cohesive policies for our airports rather than chaos and conflict.