In January Denver International Airport banned the possession of marijuana from its property. Despite the legality of possessing up to an ounce of the substance in Colorado, DIA falls under federal authority, which still classifies pot as an illegal substance. In addition to federal compliance, the measure was also an attempt on their part to minimize complications with the transport of marijuana outside of Colorado.
While some speculated that legalizing pot would prove especially complicated for the airport, recent reports show that there has been general compliance from passengers. Several media outlets recently quoted airport spokesperson Heath Montgomery saying that of the millions of people passing through DIA, only 10 have been stopped and asked to ditch their stash before continuing through security checkpoints.
Airport security has yet to issue any citations, claiming all 10 people cooperated with officials. While possessing up to an ounce of marijuana in the airport is technically not a violation of state laws, DIA stated that police may issue a $150 administrative fine for first-time offenders. The maximum penalty was set at $999. There is a clear effort to avoid serving criminal charges, despite federal jurisdiction of DIA.
Penalties for possessing any amount of marijuana outside of Colorado vary greatly across the country. Many states haven’t decriminalized any level of possession of the plant, and under federal law marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance, along with heroin and ecstasy. Cocaine, in contrast, is listed as a Schedule II drug by the US Department of Justice, and therefore considered less dangerous than pot. The conflict between state and federal laws regarding marijuana has been going on for quite some time.
DIA has become an interesting proving ground for how federal and state authorities navigate the topic of marijuana legalization. That the penalty for bringing marijuana into the airport is a relative slap on the wrist shows more tolerance and cooperation between the two than in previous years.
Despite initial controversy over it’s policies banning marijuana from entering the airport, DIA seems to have gracefully skirted major conflicts between state and federal government regulations, while maintaining a level of respect for its passengers that is apparently mutual.