Staff at New York Airport Checkpoints Will Stop Looking for and Seizing Marijuana

Synthia Stark
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

Some people in New York State may be thrilled to hear that people who plan to travel with marijuana within the state will not have to worry about their stash being stolen or confiscated. In fact, they won't be issued tickets for possession, or be arrested for possession.

As travellers navigate the various airport checkpoints, they will not be stopped.

As the Times Union reported, airport authorities and police are no longer interested in making arrests or issuing tickets for possession. Instead, they want to prioritize their efforts on safety threats and problems associated with weapons.

That being said, it might be best to be on the side of caution and limit how much you carry. For example, while it's legal state-wide, it's not legal nationally. Plus, if you're carrying well over 3 ounces, you might be pushing your luck.
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

The Rationale Behind This Move

Bart R. Johnson, a former state police colonel and current security director for over a dozen airports has reportedly stated:

“We don’t seize it [marijuana]. We just look for threats — explosives, knives, guns; we don’t look for illegally possessed narcotics. If cannabis is discovered during a pat-down, for example, the first consider is to determine if it is a threat and, if illegal, report the event to law enforcement."

This means that more time and effort will be used to focus on other avenues, such as those with weapons and have the intent to harm someone.

However, if someone was found with cannabis and they were also somehow tied to weapons or have the intent to harm others, then clearly the authorities will do something about it.

This is further corroborated by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. Their department patrols Albany International Airport and are sometimes summoned by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):

"We don’t take it anymore. It’s legal if not more than three ounces and, well, have a nice day."

Legalization in New York State

Recently, New York State legalized recreational marijuana with a surprising level of support. This makes New York the 15th state to legalize cannabis. This also means that law-abiding adults can now possess as much as three ounces of marijuana.

Thus, those who have marijuana will be able to make it through various airport checkpoints, such as the Albany International Airport with little hassle.

The Catch

Recently, New York State is still required by federal law to notify law enforcement when they discover what appears to be an illegal substance, which still includes marijuana (under federal law but not state law). Yet, as the Olean Times Herald reported, the TSA is not a law enforcement agency. This means they would rely on police discretion for specific situations.

As Jenny Burke, a TSA spokesperson reported to Forbes:

"It's pretty simple from the TSA perspective. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal. We’re just reminding travelers to always be prepared for what to expect so that they are not caught unprepared or unaware of what would be allowed to pass through at a checkpoint."

Changes in Social Attitudes

The TSA has reportedly softened its stance on possession. In April 2019, they made this mysterious social media post:

Plus, in a Gallup survey from October 2018, a whopping 66% of Americans wanted to legalize marijuana, and this includes people on both sides of the political spectrum and includes even older Americans. In fact, interest in legalizing marijuana nationally is growing more each year.

Final Thoughts

In New York State, it's interesting to hear that due to the state-wide legalization of marijuana, airports in New York have softened their stance on possession. That being said, it's always good to err on the side of caution, since it's still illegal on a national level. Plus, you might enter a state or country where it's illegal, so do be careful out there.

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