With marijuana growing in legality, more questions arise as to what is truly allowed and what is not: even if you live in Colorado, you can’t smoke cannabis in a national forest, for instance (and if you do smoke it in a forest, does anyone hear?). One of the common questions regarding pot use is in terms of flying high – literally. How does this new world of marijuana translate to travel?
The Laws Surrounding Air Travel
While the laws of weed have changed in a handful of states, the laws regarding air travel remain solid: in short, cabbage isn’t allowed in your carryon. Federal law prohibits the transportation of marijuana across state lines, making it illegal to travel with pot, although you might be flying from one legal state to another.
Some people have had different experiences with this in regards to the TSA staff. Some report leniency, with agents discovering a little weed and waving the passenger through anyway (after all, their job is to keep the plane safe, not enforce drug laws). Others report encountering that hard ass agent who’s let any amount of power go to his head: if you’re traveling with so much as basil, he’ll suggest a cavity search.
But, regardless if the agent is cool or not, marijuana is still illegal federally. Some airports ban it entirely while others ban it only past the TSA checkpoints.
Of course, some people circumvent this issue by checking their cannabis, but this isn’t allowed either
In fact, you can’t fly with marijuana, send it through the postal service (or things like UPS), or deliver it by drone. This applies no matter the reason you ingest cannabis, recreationally or medically, for fun or for fungus. Yet what about actually flying high?
Flying While High
Technically, flying after consuming marijuana is allowed: federal law doesn’t prohibit passengers from flying under the influence of drugs. It doesn’t prevent you from flying under the influence of alcohol either, but airlines can prevent you from boarding for either reason.
If the risk of being escorted off a plane by security isn’t enough to deter you (who knows, it may jumpstart your YouTube career), there are other reasons why ingesting cannabis prior to flying isn’t a great idea.
First of all, though extraordinarily rare, emergency situations do arise midflight – if you’re judgement is compromised, you not only risk your safety but the safety of others (this is particularly true if you’re sitting in an exit row).
Marijuana might affect you differently 30,000 feet in the air than it does on the ground.
For many people, cannabis causes dizziness – some of this is fleeting and minor and some of it feels like Tilt-a-Whirl on steroids. People with already have low blood pressure may be more prone to this dizziness as the plane ascends.
Soaring to 30,000 feet is certainly not the same as hiking to 30,000 feet, but it does involve some reduction of oxygen. According to the LA Times, the sea-level oxygen pressure is only maintained inside the cabin at altitudes under 22,500 feet. Above that level, the pressure falls between 15 and 18 percent. Most people are fine with this, but those with pulmonary or cardiac issues may struggle. Thus, throwing marijuana into the mix, especially if you already have a preexisting condition, isn’t recommended.
Pilots Flying High
Jokes about pilots flying drunk circulate in the average airport bar, making passengers about to board a plane both laugh and cry. But it turns out pilots fly high as well. When it comes to flying on cannabis, studies suggest that pilots under the influence of pot experience performance deterioration, predominantly in the first few hours after consumption. But, it’s not purely pot that’s concerning.
Forty percent of pilots who perished in noncommercial plane crashes had medication in their system
Yet it wasn’t ganja that harbored the blame: it was mostly antihistamines (which are well known for inducing drowsiness) and heart medication. Only 4 percent of pilots had illicit drugs in their systems (since this study was years back, cannabis was considered illicit regardless of state).
Naturally, flying on things like Benadryl isn’t wise, but it’s not necessarily solely responsible for the crashes either. This study failed to mention other variables causative of incidents, things like mechanical error, weather, and weight of cargo. A pilot’s level of experience plays a role as well.
This is in no way to say pilots under the influence should be given a pass, but it is to say that, in regards to pilots flying high, cannabis shouldn’t be the focal point: at least according to the study above, over the counter medications are more complicit. This might change as marijuana laws lax, but the regulations adapt continually. Time will tell whether cannabis use while flying becomes an issue.
What it Comes Down To
It’s your decision if you want to smoke up or take an edible before a flight – choosing to fly high is a personal choice; many people successfully sneak pot through security on a daily basis. And, as you know, no one can stop you if you smoke a bowl from the park-and-ride. Heck, you might even get away with taking a brownie into the airplane lavatory and changing the meaning of the Mile High Club.
But if you’re new to pot (or new to flying) or you have a medical condition that flares up at altitude, flying sober is the better option. If you’re going to fly high, consider CBD strains low in THC like Blue Dream (those will reduce the propensity for paranoia – something you definitely don’t want while flying over a mountain range). And don’t get so crazy that you’ll get yourself in trouble; the airlines are still filled with emotion and vigilance.
And, remember, ingesting cannabis before a flight has other risks too: once the munchies set in, who knows how many midflight meals you’ll willing chow down. Bring your Tums or a stomach pump.