With the legalization of marijuana locally, when you go to the airport, you may forget to leave it at home. And, if this happens, New Yorkers may think that the Transportation Security Administration will then charge them because it is still illegal at the federal level. Can the TSA charge me if they find drugs on me?
The TSA is not law enforcement
First, before answering these questions, it is important to understand what the TSA does and does not do. TSA’s authorization is to conduct security screenings of airline cargo, passengers and luggage. As such, TSA agents are not commissioned law enforcement officers. This means that they can search you and your bags at TSA security checkpoints. However, they cannot arrest you for anything that they find. Instead, they contact New York City metro area airport or local police.
Can the TSA charge me?
As you may have gathered from this explanation, no. The TSA cannot charge you with anything, but they can hold you for law enforcement.
What if they find drugs on me?
If drugs are discovered on you during your TSA screening, what happens next depends on where you are, what drug you have and the amount of the drug. If you are in possession of drugs that are illegal where you are, local or airport law enforcement will likely arrest and charge you.
However, even if you have a legal substance, the quantity may not be legal. For example, even places that decriminalized marijuana possession still have a limit. And, if you are over that limit, again, local or airport law enforcement will likely arrest and charge you.
If you have a locally legal drug that is under the legal amount, you may not face any consequences. Of course, the TSA agent will confiscate your marijuana, but, since it is not illegal locally, there is no one to contact to come arrest you.
What about referrals to the Drug Enforcement Administration?
The TSA could elect to make a referral to the DEA. In practice, though, this is exceedingly rare. And, some airports have already said they will not make referrals. Some airports even have drop boxes where you can dispose of your weed to avoid any uncomfortable confrontations with TSA.
Finally, remember, if you take weed across state lines, you have breached federal law, and if you land in a state where it is not legal, you have also broken the law. As such, it is always better to just leave your weed at home. Otherwise, you may need a New York City metro area attorney to fight for your freedom.