When Marijuana became legal in Illinois on January first, the state’s legal weed status was quickly apparent. Chicagoans welcomed in the New Year by becoming the eleventh state to legalise recreational cannabis. Nowhere was the effect more noticeable than in Chicago’s airports.
Blue, labelled “Cannabis Amnesty” boxes were unveiled to help passengers passing between states offload reefer, which remains illegal elsewhere in the country.
Chicago O’Hare International, one of America’s busiest airports, and Midway airport put out the boxes to legally dispose of the drug.
The Chicago Police Department told USAToday that they had followed the lead of airports in other states which had already legalised the drug.
“The boxes, placed at the end of every TSA checkpoint at both O’Hare and Midway, were in place once the new cannabis law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The boxes are where travellers can safely dispose of cannabis and cannabis products prior to travel, as they still remain illegal under federal law,” said Maggie Huynh, spokesperson for Chicago Police Department.
Similar bins have appeared in Colorado airports though Denver airport – Colorado’s largest airport – took the independent decision to ban cannabis from its property.
Aspen airport had to recently label its cannabis bins “Pot Only” after it was discovered some passengers were using the bins to dispose of used nappies and coffee cups.
If demand for legal weed is any indication, cannabis disposal will be something airports in state will have to deal with more regularly. On its first Illinois recorded US$3.2million ($4.82 million) in legal weed sales.
It is currently illegal for passengers to fly between states in possession of cannabis, even those which have legalised the drug. This is because it is still illegal under federal law.
However the US Transport Security Agency said that screening for marijuana is low down on their priorities.
Of the 54 million passengers who flew through Denver International Airport in 2015, the TSA stopped just 29 for possession of marijuana the airport security told The New York Times.
However low down on their priorities, the agency is still obliged to record possession of illegal drugs including cannabis.
“Let us be blunt” said the TSA outlining its policy on searching for marijuana: “In the event a substance appears to be marijuana or a cannabis infused product, we’re required by federal law to notify law enforcement.”