airplane weed pill bottle
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

How to Sneak Weed Onto an Airplane

Everything you wanted to know but were (legitimately) afraid to ask.

So you’ve gone and done it: You have purchased the marijuana. You’ve maybe even enjoyed some of it already. Perhaps you’ve taken advantage of America’s ever-growing recreational landscape and toked after hitting the slopes of Aspen or wandered down the neon-lit boulevards of Las Vegas as an edible kicks in. Maybe you’ve had a visit from your friendly, bike-bound NY neighborhood delivery guy. However it happened, the bag has been secured, and now you’d like to bring some of it home/on your next trip. You start to type the inevitable question into Google: Should I bring weed on an airplane?

It’s an innocent enough question, and a very common scenario: You want to move some weed from Point A, where you can acquire it easily, to Point B, where you cannot. Zero judgments here—and we’ve got your back. We have assembled a handy guide on how to transport your pot without getting caught. (Unfortunately, the whole guide doesn’t rhyme.) Let’s begin.

The TSA does not look for pot

How much weed should I fly with?

It’s good to remain cautious even if you’ve decided to pack some pot. This first bit of advice is simple—don’t test your luck. Fly with small amounts. For old-school nugs (aka flower), an eighth is a reliable standard. That’s 3.5 grams, and it is the max we recommend trying out for this experiment. Follow that same logic with edibles, et al. Think logically here. The more product you’re packing, the higher likelihood the TSA will spot it, and, at the very least, make you throw it out. And that would suck! Weed is expensive.

Where should I hide my weed when I fly?

Not in your checked luggage. We know that may sound intimidating and that some of you will be sweating while thinking about those buds from take-off to landing, but trust us—your best bet is to keep the goodies with you. The TSA conducts random searches on checked luggage all the time. Your carry-on bags, on the other hand, are likely to go unsearched beyond the usual security checkpoint. So long as you’re smart about it.

For this part, we urge you not to overthink things. It sounds counterintuitive, but the reality is—the TSA really is not looking for weed. They are looking for items that can take down an airplane. The best, most successful acts of deception are always those that deviate as little as possible from the truth, so, in this same vein, skew closer to “in plain sight” than “in a jar of peanut butter” when it comes to getting weed through security.

cigarette pack joints
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

How to sneak weed through airport security

To TSA scanners, weed is a sort of nondescript blur. Internal bodily storage no longer needs to be on the table. If you have a few extra joints, just put them in a cigarette pack and then put that cigarette pack towards the bottom of your carry-on. Smell is a factor with flower, so you still want to avoid bringing it out in the open. For actual buds, one Thrillist writer finds this trick to be the way to go: Empty any opaque bottle of over-the-counter medication like Ibuprofen. Put the weed in it. Put some cotton balls on top of weed. Put pills on top of cotton balls until it’s filled to the brim.

If you’ve got TSA Precheck, you can put a baggie in your shoe. If you’ve got a reusable joint container, you can break up a couple buds to fit inside and then toss the plastic tube amongst other purse necessities like chapstick and hand sanitizers.

Even if your pot does get caught, there’s a very good chance nothing will happen to you. Regional TSA spokesperson Carrie Harmon points Thrillist to the following statement: “TSA’s focus is on terrorism and security threats to the aircraft and its passengers. TSA’s screening procedures, which are governed by federal law, are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. As has always been the case, if during the security screening procedures an officer discovers an item that may violate the law, TSA refers the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement officials determine whether to initiate a criminal investigation.”

That means that if you’re trying to get some pot out of Portland and a TSA officer finds it, you’d be referred to a Portland cop who would make you throw it out, possibly while making a Phish joke. Then you’d be free to go. If you’re leaving a state where marijuana possession is still a criminal offense, we aren’t really sure why you’re trying to fly it out of there in the first place, but chances are the TSA personnel in Waco are far less accustomed to spotting weed than the ones in Denver.

There's a good chance nothing will happen to you

Okay, what about edibles?

Edibles are the easiest to fly with by far. Gummies go into an empty bag of Haribo gummy bears. Shatter and wax go into one of those weird honey candy bags. And so on and so forth. Lookalike packaging will keep the security guard moving as they search for your tweezers or those scissors your stoned ass forget to leave at the Airbnb. And that brings us to a very important point: Make sure everything else in your bag complies. What is TSA looking for? Bombs, primarily! After that, anything metal. And then—liquid bombs! Don’t tempt fate by attracting security with any sort of liquid in your bags.

Dope. How about vape cartridges?

Gone are the days when authorities confused vape cartridges with USB drives. However, again—the TSA isn’t looking for weed. The TSA looks for liquids, C-4, and crossbows. If they are searching your bag, chances are you left something else in there you shouldn’t have. Because of the restrictions on liquids, if you’re packing vape cartridges make sure you have less than three ounces. We recommend storing them in the same pocket as pens, chapstick, maybe a nail file—similar looking innocent items.

Thrillist reached Heath Montgomery, the senior public information officer at Denver International Airport, for his two cents on dimebag traffic. “Generally, the airport has a policy that prohibits the possession, consumption, etc. of any marijuana products on airport property,” Montgomery says. “When a person is found to have marijuana on them [an amount legal under Colorado law] at the TSA checkpoints, a Denver police officer typically explains the airport’s rules and asks the passenger to dispose of the marijuana. To date…every single person who has been contacted about this has voluntarily complied with our request and either taken it home or thrown it away. The TSA only contacts a handful of people—out of millions—about marijuana each year. The numbers have been so small that the police no longer track these contacts.

“Basically, people seem to be well informed that it is illegal under federal law to fly with marijuana, and that the airport prohibits the possession of any amount of marijuana, and the vast majority of travelers are simply not bringing it to the airport.”

Do what you will with that information.

pill bottle filled with cotton balls and weed
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

And CBD?

CBD’s whole thing is that it contains no (or very little) THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana to which the law applies. In 2019, the TSA updated its policy to allow CBD containing less than .3% THC, but we wouldn’t sweat it overthinking that part too much. Unless you’re in a very red state and also profoundly unlucky, CBD is fine. It is very unlikely that TSA is gonna care about your CBD when you can probably purchase an $8 CBD latte on many airport premises right after you get through security.

What do I do after security?

Light ’er up! Just kidding—keep the goods where they’re packed until you’re settling in at your final, final destination. Basically, you’re in the clear at this point though. Just remember that when you land, chances are you’re touching down in less-friendly territory than where you just were. You have a better chance of being busted by local cops for smoking and driving than while going through airport security.

Can I drive across state lines with weed?

Not flying to your destination, or not a fan of flying period? You’ve got options. Analog travel by foot or by bike is an easy, weed-friendly route for short distances, but going by car is something different entirely. The riskiest option you have, bar none, is driving. Cops from non-legalized states have been known to target incoming cars with plates from those with headier laws.

If you must drive, don’t bring flower; the smell will be your downfall. Pack some gummies or a vape pen in the bottom of a bag and hit the road—just be sure to stay right at the speed limit. A final piece of advice received from a longtime criminal defense attorney: When people get caught breaking the law, it’s almost always because they’re breaking more than one.

Editor’s Note: Any cannabis products referenced above are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The writer is not a medical doctor, and their experience is based on personal use, the results of which may not be typical or intended. The legality of cannabis products varies by state, and readers are encouraged to check their local laws before purchasing and using cannabis products. Possessing, using, distributing, and/or selling marijuana or marijuana-based products is illegal under federal law as of the writing of this article, regardless of any conflicting state laws. Compliance with the laws of a particular state in no way ensures compliance with federal law, and there is a risk that conflicting federal and/or other state laws may be enforced in the future. Nothing in this article should be construed as advice regarding the legal status of cannabis products.

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Lauren Yoshiko is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She writes The Broccoli Report, a bi-weekly newsletter for creative cannabis entrepreneurs.