People traveling with marijuana for personal use barely have to worry when traveling through Los Angeles International Airport, as long as they’re up to date on increasingly flexible state laws.
But authorities have seen a strange shift in carry-on luggage since California legalized weed in 2018: Smugglers are maxing out their baggage allowances hauling bricks of pot to other states. The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that police working at LAX have seen a 166% increase in marijuana smuggling arrests since California legalized the drug with Prop 64, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
Pot prices in the state are relatively low due to a glut of suppliers, but are higher in jurisdictions where marijuana remains outlawed. Some smugglers are hoping to take advantage of the disparity.
“We find it in about 50-pound quantities ... the carry-on rate for luggage,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, an officer at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the Oakland International Airport, told the LA Times. “I would imagine we’re only intercepting some of it, not all of it.”
The newspaper found there were 101 arrest records for drug trafficking at LAX in 2018, far more than the 38 the previous year. Many of the travelers were headed to Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis or Dallas.
LAX has a published marijuana policy that mirrors state law, allowing anyone 21 years of age or older to possess legal amounts of the drug in the airport. State law allows individuals to carry up to one ounce of pot.
Airport Police Division officers “have no jurisdiction to arrest individuals if they are complying with state law,” the policy reads. “However, airport guests should be aware that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening stations are under federal jurisdiction.”
The airport also notes that possessing marijuana in states outside California can have legal consequences.
The TSA can still block pot-possessing travelers passing through security checkpoints and alert law enforcement. But local law enforcers won’t arrest people for legal amounts of weed, the LAPD said in September.
An airport spokesperson didn’t immediately answer HuffPost’s request for comment.
Read the full report at the Los Angeles Times.