BY ALLY MAROTTI
CHICAGO – O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport have installed boxes for travelers to dispose of recreational marijuana before they get on the plane.
The cannabis amnesty boxes, as they’re called, are stationed just past each Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, said Maggie Huynh, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department.
The police aren’t targeting travelers with cannabis, and it’s not illegal to have it at the airport, Huynh said. But possessing marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and air space is regulated by the federal government.
The boxes give people an opportunity to ensure they’re not breaking federal law and won’t run into an issue when they land at their destination, Huynh said.
“We’re not encouraging people to bring cannabis through the airports at all,” Huynh said. “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.”
TSA doesn’t search for weed at security checkpoints, according to its website. But its agents are obligated to report any violations of federal law to local police, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said. TSA agents will not weigh the amount in someone’s possession before turning them over to police, Koshetz said.
“In the event a substance that appears illegal is discovered during security screening, our officers will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer, who then follow their own procedures,” Koshetz said.
Illinois residents can legally possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, or about an ounce, in Illinois and out-of-state residents can have half that.
The boxes are owned by the Department of Aviation and serviced by the police. Police officers will regularly empty the boxes, file a report for the items inside and dispose of any surrendered marijuana like they would narcotics, Huynh said.
The boxes were installed at each airport last week, just as legal weed sales began in Illinois.
Not just Chicago
Chicago airports weren’t the first to install marijuana disposal boxes.
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas has amnesty boxes outside of the terminals where passengers can surrender marijuana or anything else they don’t want to take through security.
Airports in other states that allow recreational marijuana give travelers additional options. In Juneau, Alaska, police give passengers stopped with legally purchased marijuana a chance to leave it somewhere for safekeeping, like in their car or with a friend.