The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 30, 2014

Wash., Colo., have few ways to stop carry-on weed

DENVER (AP) — Among the many oddities that have arisen from marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado is this: It can be easier to get through airport security with a bag of weed than a bottle of water.

At Washington's airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International, there's nothing police can do to prevent travelers from flying with pot in their carry-on or checked luggage, provided it doesn't exceed the state legal limit of one ounce. Instead, airport officials say, officers simply recommend that travelers leave it in their cars, toss it or have a friend pick it up.

But in Colorado, where the legal pot law gives property owners more authority to restrict the drug, some airports have banned marijuana possession and enacted penalties, including fines as high as $2,500 and a jail stint at the airport in Colorado Springs.

"Carrying marijuana in a civilian aircraft is illegal under federal regulations. That's why we implemented the rule, to prevent marijuana from reaching a civilian aircraft," said airport spokeswoman Kim Melchor, adding that the airport has yet to levy a fine and that a drop-box where travelers can toss excess weed hasn't been used.

The situation underscores the difficulty officials in both states have as they try to prevent pot from leaving their borders — one of several conditions the Department of Justice imposed when it allowed the legal pot experiments to proceed.

An attorney with Smart Colorado, which opposed legalization, worried about tourists transporting tiny, concentrated products, such as hardened hash oil that has enough THC, pot's primary psychoactive chemical, for hundreds of uses.

"For the size of a traveler's shampoo bottle, you can serve an entire urban high school and get them stoned," Rachel O'Bryan said.

Voters in the two states approved legalizing marijuana for adults over 21 in 2012, but the laws don't allow people to take pot out of state. Federal law prohibits marijuana possession, on a plane or anywhere else. Anyone who touched down in the other 48 states where marijuana is illegal would also be violating state law.

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