Amnesty boxes set to take cannabis off the hands of uniformed U.S. travellers

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Tired of flushing your stash down the toilet before boarding a plane? Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport will be more than happy to accept it.

Now that marijuana is legal for recreational use in Illinois — and a slew of other U.S. states — get ready for the arrival of cannabis amnesty boxes.

The blue boxes have started appearing throughout the airport, forcing travellers to make a difficult decision on what is probably already a stressful day. The drug may be legal in Chicago, but it is still prohibited at the federal level and the ensuing confusion may entice people to unnecessarily part with their cannabis.

The Chicago police announced last week that it won’t punish travellers caught with personal amounts of marijuana in Chicago airports starting Jan. 1, but that doesn’t mean flying with marijuana is legal, particularly if you are leaving the country or state.

Transporting cannabis across state lines remains a federal offence, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t decide whether or not to press charges. Instead, the agency defers to local authorities on the matter.

“Our officers are not looking for cannabis as they go through their normal security (check). But should they come across it, we are going to contact the Chicago Police Department to make a final determination on the disposition,” TSA deputy federal security director Louis Traverz said at a news conference.

If caught, law enforcement won’t even demand that you dispose of your cannabis in a trash receptacle, like you do if caught carrying a fifth of vodka. Officers will, instead, remind passengers that marijuana laws differ nationwide and internationally, explaining the possible repercussions if travellers choose to fly with cannabis on them.

If people prefer to play it safe and throw their cannabis away, authorities will help them with that, too.

“If it is not a violation of the statute or ordinance, we would offer them a proper disposal of the cannabis if they wish, or they could continue on with their travels,” Chicago police commander William Mullane told the Chicago Sun Times.

Amnesty boxes haven’t made an appearance in Canada yet, but they have been in use in Colorado since the state legalized the drug in 2014. Las Vegas has at least 13 of them in its airport and the boxes are bolted to ground to make them less tempting targets. They are emptied twice a week, and are reportedly never empty.

If you rely on cannabis as a source of medication, or just don’t want your day spoiled, make sure you do your due diligence before flying the friendly skies.

If you’re not crossing state lines, don’t let the blue box bully you into giving up your goods. If you are, you might want to leave your supply at home — it’s not worth the hassle.

Mullane advised against flying with any amount of marijuana, but said that if travellers are “within the guidelines of our current statute, starting Jan. 1, we can’t enforce anything.”

“If they’re legal, they’re legal,” he added.

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