New York airports have eased their rules regarding marijuana possession.
Bart R. Johnson, a former State Police colonel who is the federal security director for 15 upstate airports including Albany International, said marijuana is not something that security officers are looking for when they pat down passengers or search their luggage for contraband.
“We just look for threats — explosives, knives, guns; we don’t look for illegally possessed narcotics,” said Johnson, who is based at Albany International Airport.
In prior years, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, whose department patrols Albany International, said his deputies and investigators no longer issued tickets or made an arrest if the amount of marijuana appeared to be less than three ounces.
“We don’t take it anymore,” said Apple. “It’s legal if not more than three ounces and, well, have a nice day.”
The TSA is required to notify law enforcement when they discover an illegal substance, and while marijuana is considered illegal under federal law, the TSA is not law enforcement.
An April 2019 Instagram post by the TSA hinted at its more tolerant outlook on marijuana possession: “Are we cool? We like to think we’re cool. We want you to have a pleasant experience at the airport and arrive safely at your destination. But getting caught while trying to fly with marijuana or cannabis-infused products can really harsh your mellow,” the post stated, adding “#marijuana” and “#traveltips.”
“Let us be blunt,” the post continued, “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.”
New York legalized the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana in March.