New York TSA Will No Longer Seize Marijuana at Airport Checkpoints

Image: Olena Ruban/Getty Images

With New York now legalized, possessors of cannabis won’t have to be fearful of arrest while traveling from other states.

Bart R. Johnson, a former State Police colonel, said that due to New York’s legalization of adult recreational cannabis use, police will no longer make arrests, issue tickets, or seize marijuana for travelers passing through Albany International and other airports across the state.

The news highlights the softening rules for cannabis as New York continues to make sweeping changes to airport security. Johnson is also the federal security director for 15 upstate airports, and noted that security officers will no longer look for marijuana when they pat down passengers or search their luggage for contraband. 

Up to three ounces of marijuana is the legal limit for possession when traveling.

“We don’t seize it. We just look for threats—explosives, knives, guns; we don’t look for illegally possessed narcotics,” Johnson said. “When we notice something suspicious on a pat-down or something like that and then we discover that it’s marijuana … so we’re looking to see if it’s a threat. … If it turns out to be something that appears to be an illegal substance, we notify law enforcement.”

Craig Apple, an Albany County Sheriff whose department patrols the airport, said deputies are occasionally summoned to the security checkpoint when marijuana is found inside a traveler’s luggage or on their person. The sheriff added that Transportation Security Administration officials will no longer issue tickets or make an arrest if the amount of marijuana appears to be less than three ounces.

In prior years, Apple noted that deputies and investigators annually made dozens of arrests or issued tickets for unlawful possession of marijuana at the airport. 

“It’s legal if not more than three ounces and, well, have a nice day,” he said. 

The TSA has been hinting at this moment for a while. In April 2019, an Instagram post shared a more tolerant outlook on marijuana possession. “Let us be blunt, TSA officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats. But in the event a substance appears to be marijuana or a cannabis-infused product, we’re required by federal law to notify law enforcement. This includes items that are used for medicinal purposes.”

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