It is becoming a common story for people who rarely smoke weed to go to Colorado (or Washington) and then buy some edibles, have a good time, and decide they can’t go home without a stash.
Before you head out on your next Rocky Mountain hike, make sure you understand the laws and are aware of the potential consequences of inadvertently smuggling weed or food home—your wallet will thank you later!
What are edibles?
The term edible describes food or beverages which contain marijuana in a form to consume easily. Often, foods are cooked or made into baked goods such as cookies or sweets such as gummies and chocolate bars.
While some prefer to smoke or vaporize marijuana, some users choose to consume cannabis in edible form. Edibles benefit medical marijuana patients, especially the elderly and children who want to avoid the harmful effects of smoke inhalation.
For edibles to be exactly edible, marijuana must be in a condition to be used for baking or cooking. For this purpose, marijuana is ground up in flour and covered with oil or butter used in cooking. Once ground, marijuana is ready to be added to liquids such as coffee, baked goods, sweets, and meats. While some people may use recipes to make their edibles, legally licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida have begun selling commercially produced edibles.
Unlike smoking or vaporizing marijuana, the effects of edibles only occur after digestion, and this process takes up an hour before any drug effect is felt.
Possession of marijuana
State by state, marijuana is legalized across the country. In some states, the use of marijuana was approved for medical purposes for patients diagnosed with a long list of eligible conditions. Specific rules apply to this use, including obtaining a prescription from a specially certified physician and purchasing it from an authorized dispensary.
For those who are not qualified, possession of any amount of marijuana in any form can lead to arrest.
There are different crimes under which you can be charged if found in possession of marijuana. They are:
- Easy to hold.
- Possession of a small amount of marijuana.
- Possession with intent to deliver.
Flying with edibles?
Cannabis of any kind, even medical, even in states where it is legal, falls under federal jurisdiction when an individual passes through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint. At this point, the person enters the federally controlled territory of the airport, the aircraft, and its airspace. Cannabis and most products containing cannabis are illegal under federal law.
According to the TSA, the only legal cannabis-related products (in carry-on or checked bags) are those containing no more than 0.3 percent THC or FDA-approved drugs.
That said, the TSA’s statement points out that its mission is security and its priority is to detect threats to passengers and aircraft. The agency’s security officers do not look for drugs, but if they find any during screening, they will have law enforcement officers deal with them.
What happens when you feel like flying with food?
That’s when state or local jurisdictions come into play, and what happens after that is complicated and location dependent.
For example, while Massachusetts law allows a person to carry an ounce of cannabis at a time, it states that it is illegal to use any form of it (vaping, smoking, or even edible) on nationwide land or in public. Despite the legality of small quantities, if the TSA discovers your edibles during security screening at International Airport, they may, at their discretion, contact the State Police.
Different states may take different levels of measure at this point. At Los Angeles International Airport, although their policy states that TSA checkpoints fall under federal jurisdiction, the airport police division will not arrest individuals at the airport unless they exceed the legal amount of up to 28.5 grams in their possession.
Several airports, including McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, have installed “amnesty boxes” where passengers can dispose of cannabis and related products without penalty. And others, including Denver International Airport, still ban cannabis anywhere in the airport.
Cannabis laws vary hugely around the world. If they are caught in a country where it is illegal, it can have serious consequences. The US State Department has warned travelers against using CBD oil in their luggage.
Marijuana Flower vs. THC concentrates
While most people know that it is illegal to travel home with marijuana, few understand the risks they take when they attempt to travel home with edibles or other THC concentrates such as wax, hash oil, or edibles.
Although considered a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use by the DEA, the flower (leaf marijuana) is placed in its own, less severe penalty group with the following ranges of penalties for possession:
- Fewer than 2 ounces: Class B misdemeanor
- 2 to 4 ounces: Class A misdemeanor.
- 4 ounces to 5 pounds: State Prison offense.
- 5 to 50 pounds: 3rd-degree felony.
- 50 pounds to one ton: 2nd-degree felony.
- More than 1 ton: 1st-degree felony.
THC concentrates are a completely different story. Keeping a small amount of marijuana is unlikely to result in jail time, whereas keeping a few edibles or doses can land legal trouble. Although THC is the active chemical component that gives marijuana its intoxicating effect, the criminal category of marijuana only applies to flowers.
Concentrates which include wax, edibles, hash oil, and drops, are considered Class Two alongside common psychedelics such as Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) and Mescaline (Peyote). Possession of any usable amount of THC concentrate will land you as a state jail felony, and it only gets worse from there.
- Less than one gram of possession: State Jail Felony
- 1 to 4 grams of possession: 2nd-degree felony (punishable by 2-20 years in prison).
- 4-400 grams of possession: 1st-degree felony (punishable by 5-99 years in prison or life in prison).
- More than 400 grams of possession: A felony of the 1st degree (punishable by 10-99 years in prison or life).
Something you must remember: One gram of marijuana isn’t a lot of marijuana at all, and flowers don’t weigh much. Foods like cookies and crackers are naturally a bit heavier, which means you don’t have to be Pablo Escobar to face a 1st-degree felony for possession. While you and your attorney can try to get the reduced charges based on the original amount of marijuana used in the bait, it’s still a nasty situation for you.
Common defenses for edible possession
The penalties for possessing edible marijuana can be severe, so it is crucial to hire the right drug attorney to handle the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to look at the facts of your case and develop a legal strategy to protect your constitutional rights.
If you are detained for possession of edible marijuana, you can raise the following defenses:
Illegal search and seizure
In many cases, law enforcement may go beyond their authority to search a vehicle, home, or person for drugs. In other cases, law enforcement can use their powers to compel someone to consent to a search. In both cases, the results of illegal searches lead to the suppression of evidence obtained during the investigation.
Lack of knowledge
You can also plead that you did not know that the food or drink in your possession was edible. To raise this defense, you would have to testify to demonstrate your lack of knowledge of the true nature of the food or drink you possessed.
If you temporarily possess an edible, you may be able to increase the defense of the temporary possession. The defense strategy can only increase when a person owns the edible. To have legal possession, one must have complete dominion and control over the edible.
If you are caught with even a single edible in your possession, you will be subject to an entirely different set of rules, including felony charges. It doesn’t matter if the edible is a tincture, oil, gummy bear, or lollipop.
But also, the more marijuana found in your possession, the more charges you will face- and when the weight is measured, the mass of the entire edible product comes into account. This factor alone is likely to increase food charges.
If you are facing charges related to possession of marijuana of any kind, do yourself a favor and remain silent and then contact an experienced defense counsel right away.
What should medical Marijuana patients do?
Unfortunately, flying with medical marijuana breaches federal regulations, but some states allow reciprocity for medical cannabis. Patients with medical marijuana cards can enjoy similar privileges outside their home state. Although they may need to apply for a new card valid in the state they are visiting.
What if I’m flying between two states where weed is legal?
It is still illegal even if you travel between states where weed is legal. The plane you are traveling on is technically under a federal jurisdiction where cannabis is illegal.
Will the TSA find weed in my checked bag?
If you try to hide a large amount of marijuana in your bag, you may be retarded upon landing and exiting the plane. Your cannabis will likely get seized, and you may face legal action for possessing large quantities of marijuana, especially if traveling to a state where it is illegal.
Can I take hash/oil/food on the plane?
No, you cannot take any form of cannabis on the plane. Hash, oil, resin, wax, and edibles are considered forms of concentrated cannabis, regulated under the same laws as flowers but with lower possession limits.
What are the consequences of being charged with possession of edibles?
If you are charged with simple possession and convicted of this crime, it will be viewed negatively in the eyes of a potential employer or college. In contrast, a conviction for keeping a small amount of marijuana is disregarded, especially if you live in a state where possession of marijuana has been largely legitimized.