Cannabis amnesty boxes are now available in Chicago airports, including at both O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport.
Illinois residents voted to legalize cannabis on the recreational level for adults ages 21 and up back in 2019, although sales didn’t officially start until January 1st of this year.
Despite state-wide legalization, marijuana remains federally illegal in the United States, and flying with cannabis is strictly prohibited under federal law.
The large blue boxes stationed outside of TSA are intentionally located there for travelers to discard of any remaining cannabis before proceeding through security to board their flights out of Illinois.
According to a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department (CPD), Maggie Huynh, the CPD is in charge of servicing the amnesty boxes, however, the boxes are actually the property of the Department of Aviation.
Said Huynh, “We’re not encouraging people to bring cannabis through the airports at all. But if for some reason you have it on you, we have those amnesty boxes out there so that you can dispose of it prior to getting on the airplane.”
Last week, Huynh told USA Today, “The boxes, placed at the end of every TSA checkpoint at both O’Hare and Midway, were in place once the new cannabis law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The boxes are where travelers can safely dispose of cannabis and cannabis products prior to travel, as they still remain illegal under federal law.”
At a press conference back in December, Deputy Federal Security Director for the TSA, Louis Traverz, said to reporters, “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.”
Chicago Police Commander, William Mullane, told the Sun Times, “To ensure safe travel for all travelers, we’re encouraging all travelers not to bring cannabis through Chicago airports as it remains illegal under federal law.”
Added Mullane, “Within the guidelines of our current statute, starting Jan. 1, we can’t enforce anything. If they’re legal, they’re legal. 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.”
The city of Las Vegas implemented a similar policy back in 2018, installing several cannabis amnesty boxes outside of TSA at McCarran International Airport. Multiple Colorado airports, including Aspen and Colorado Springs, also have cannabis amnesty boxes, although Denver International, the largest airport in Colorado, has banned possession of any cannabis while on airport property.
Los Angeles City Councilman, Mitch Englander, has called for the addition of cannabis amnesty boxes at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). In 2018, Englander told the Los Angeles Times, “Airport Police handle possession of marijuana at LAX consistent with the manner in which all Los Angeles police officers within the city handle possession. If an adult citizen is found in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana no legal action is taken and the citizen retains their property. There are no special considerations made because of the location. You could be at a minimum held over and searched and miss your flight.”