Palm Springs police chief OK with weed possession at airport, but prefers people just leave it home
Sherry Barkas, Palm Springs Desert Sun Published 4:21 p.m. PT Nov. 14, 2018 | Updated 1:12 p.m. PT Nov. 15, 2018
Every year tens of thousands flock to the Coachella Valley to take in a variety of popular tourist attractions, from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to The Living Desert, Sunnylands, Palm Springs Air Museum, BMW Performance Center, Shields Date Garden and El Paseo in Palm Desert, to name just a few. Wochit
Pot possession at Palm Springs International Airport may soon be allowed, but authorities want passengers to be clear precisely where they enter federal territory and marijuana in any form is against the law.
“Our suggestion is that you leave it at home to avoid delaying ... your travel,” police Chief Bryan Reyes said Wednesday morning, following an Airport Commission meeting.
The commission is moving forward with a recommendation that the city allow marijuana possession at the airport, establishing a policy like one adopted for Los Angeles International Airport.
However, commissioners repeatedly stressed that Palm Springs’ policy be more clearly worded.
“LAX’s policy is really very confusing,” said Commissioner A.J. Jones. “It doesn’t tell me I can’t carry it on the plane.”
While the city — which owns the airport — can allow marijuana to be carried onto the property, the federal government controls the airspace. Once passengers enter the airport screening area, they are in a federally governed area where any amount of cannabis is illegal, including medical marijuana.
LAX’s policy allows for individuals 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and up to 8 grams of concentrated marijuana — and Palm Springs would allow the same.
But, even if flying within California or to another state where marijuana is legal, no amount can be carried onto an airplane, Commissioner Peter Freymuth said.
“I’m very supportive of LA’s language, but I think you should add language that cautions passengers that, once they cross the TSA line, it’s a different story,” Freymuth said.
“Otherwise, we could potentially be in a situation where somebody is in line at TSA, they find it ... and then they have to stay back in line ... they miss the flight and say, ‘They told me it’s legal,’” Freymuth said.
Reyes and City Manager David Ready said they will work with the city attorney in crafting the policy so it is clear where it is legal and where it is not.
Signs spelling out the airport policy would be posted throughout the airport, on the airport’s website and through social media, officials said.
Since Californians approved Proposition 64 in November 2014, making marijuana legal, TSA has been calling airport police — Palm Springs police locally — when agents find pot in luggage.
If the amount the passenger has is within the legal limit for personal possession, the passenger will not be cited or arrested but will be told to dispense of the pot, officials said.
There are three options passengers will be given, Reyes said: take it back to the car; hand it off to a relative or friend at the airport who is not boarding an aircraft or give it to police, knowing it will be destroyed.
The same rules apply, whether the cannabis is found in checked or carry-on bags, Reyes said.
Asked by commissioners if allowing cannabis at the airport will require more police time or personnel, Reyes said he doesn’t believe so.
There have been only two calls for service from TSA officers since Jan. 1, Reyes said. If the signage at the airport is clear enough where exactly possession becomes illegal, there shouldn't be more demand on local police.
“It will come down to how we word that statement,” Reyes said.
Once the city attorney has approved the wording, Ready said he will present it to the city’s Cannabis Subcommittee and with its approval will implement the policy.
Signage should be in place ahead of the December holidays, he said.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers Tourism and Families. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
(760) 778-4694. Follow her on Twitter @TDSSherryBarkas
Disclaimer: Cannabis laws and policies in the City of Palm Springs and the State of California are subject to change. Please check this site regularly for new or modified information. Please be aware: This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product. Keep out of the reach of children.