Are you looking to ‘fly high’? The Oakland International Airport could be the nation’s only airport with a unique policy that allows medical marijuana patients travel with their medication.
This policy has been spelled out in a document implemented in 2008 by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Stating if deputies conclude a individual is a qualified medical marijuana patient or primary caregiver, defined by California law and is carrying eight ounces or less of marijuana, the person can keep their medication and board the plane.
Police inform passengers carrying marijuana could be committing a felony upon arrival to a destination where medical marijuana is not recognized. Police officials have said they do not inform authorities at the passengers’ destination.
A quote from police chief: “We never have. We’re certainly within our right to, but we never have,” said Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “Our notification of the passengers is for their own safety and well-being.”
California approved medical marijuana use in 1996 by voters taking action. Though federal law still bans all possession and use.
Robert Raich, an Oakland attorney informs the Code of Federal Regulation states a prohibition of operating a civil aircraft with knowledge of marijuana on board doesn’t apply to carrying marijuana that’s “authorized by or under any Federal or State Statute.”
Regardless, when the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does security screening and if marijuana or suspected contraband is found, sheriff deputies are called upon.
Oakland’s airport policy was enacted in February 2008, though Raich didn’t want to publicize it until recently lest the Bush administration change federal regulations, or lest it become an issue in Obama administration drug officials’ confirmation hearings.
“All other airports in medical cannabis states should have similar policies but they don’t,” he said, noting that San Francisco International and Los Angeles International airports are relatively friendly to medical marijuana patients but airports in Ontario, Burbank and San Diego are not.
Raich, who has had two of his own medical marijuana cases argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and has educated Oakland Police officers about medical marijuana issues, saying medical marijuana users generally don’t have much trouble when Oakland Police used to patrol inside the airport terminals,. But this changed when Alameda County Sheriff’s Office took over in mid-2007. That summer TSA security called upon deputies about traveling medical marijuana patient from Washington State.
Raich said: “The sheriff’s deputies so harassed this person, it was heart-wrenching.” “They confiscated his medicine, broke his bong, and took his edibles. They were obviously threatening him.”
Raich discovered the sheriff’s office was unwilling to change the policy. Consulting with various officials including the Port of Oakland, which owns and operates the airport.
Raich said “I felt like a ball in a pinball machine”. “I felt like I’d talked to every single employee at the port and they all seemed sympathetic but told me the same thing: ‘that’s not our policy “… that’s the sheriff doing that on his own.”
Raich approached Alameda County counsel’s office. This office “finally told (Sheriff Greg Ahern) he had to comply with California law whether he liked it or not, and only then did they adopt a policy.”
Raich said, “Greg Ahern is out of sync with the California people who voted for Prop. 215 and medical marijuana in 1996 and have continued to support it by wide margins ever since”. Sheriff’s spokesman Nelson said the sheriff “neither supports nor opposes the medical marijuana law.
“He’s had no position on that,” Nelson said. “He’s just trying to do the best he can when a state law conflicts with a federal law.”
FAA regulations ban people from carrying marijuana on a plane – unless it is authorized by a Federal or State law.