News & Politics

Colorado Airports Ban Marijuana, But Try to Help Passengers Stay Out of Legal Trouble

If you're going to fly in Colorado, you can't do it with to speak.

Photo Credit: Brad Whitsitt / Shutterstock

The Telluride Regional Airport wants its passengers to know that the only thing that should get them high there are the airplanes.

The Colorado aviation facility is warning passengers that they are at risk of prosecution if they try bring along their buds on flights. Even if traveling between two cities within the state, airplanes enter federal airspace and passengers are subject to federal laws.

The new warning signs will be placed in various locations at the airport as it tries to walk a fine line between Colorado laws and federal laws.

“We’re respecting Colorado state law; you can legally possess marijuana, but once you leave the airport by air, you’re subject to federal law,” Airport Authority Chairman Jon Dwight told the Telluride Daily Planet. “Once flights are in air, you’re in federal airspace.”

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The airport authority will place signs at the airport that will read: While the possession/use of marijuana is legal in Colorado, it is illegal in federal airspace under the Controlled Substance Act. If you are departing this airport by air, you will be entering federal airspace.

“A lot of people don’t equate that if you take off from Telluride and just fly to Denver [that they are breaking the law],” Dwight told the Daily Planet. “Some think ‘I’m still OK.’ Well, they’re not, because it is still illegal in federal airspace.”

Other airports in Colorado are also grappling with the issue. In Colorado Springs, the airport authority has begun to install “amnesty boxes” for ticketed passengers who don't realize that it's illegal to possess marijuana on an airplane. The airport has also banned marijuana on the premises, but passengers will be able to give away their marijuana before they go through the TSA checkpoints. The marijuana placed in amnesty boxes will then be destroyed.

It is legal to leave marijuana in parked cars at airports in Colorado, but you can't bring marijuana inside airport facilities. If passengers pack pot and its discovered by TSA officials, local police will be notified.

Denver International Airport, Colorado's largest airport, will not offer amnesty boxes.

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.