Frequent flyers with a medical marijuana prescription beware: it is now illegal to carry any form of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, in the Orlando International Airport.
On Wednesday, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority voted unanimously to prohibit passengers from carrying any form of marijuana, including medical marijuana, on airport premises.
That means passengers caught carrying medical marijuana could be at risk for being arrested, despite the drug’s legality for prescription purposes in the Sunshine State.
The draft policy says marijuana, even medical marijuana, is “prohibited” from being brought onto airport property. Anyone found violating the rule would have their pot confiscated from here on out.
That’s not all -- the policy goes on to say “any person violating this provision will be detained or arrested by a Law Enforcement Officer.”
Authorities argue the ban is necessary because marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 substance, similar to heroin or peyote. Airports fall under federal law, board members said, and thus must follow their rules despite what local laws may be.
Now it appears traveling has gotten a little bit riskier for suffering Florida patients, many of whom use low-THC doses of medical marijuana to manage their illnesses.
Orlando police, however, say they won’t arrest anyone caught with marijuana on airport property, since marijuana was recently decriminalized in the Orlando area.
The new policy raises the question, though, of just how airports manage marijuana. In Colorado, for example, there has been a ban on marijuana at the Denver International Airport since 2014, when recreational marijuana was made legal.
Yet in spite of the ban, not many people are actually arrested for possessing the drug.
According to a New York Times analysis, the TSA stopped just 29 people for possession of marijuana out of the 54 million who traveled through the Denver airport in 2015.
Orlando isn’t the first airport in the Sunshine State to crack down on marijuana possession.
The Times also found 11 of the 2.8 million passengers who were screened by TSA at Jacksonville International Airport were detained for possession of marijuana last year. All were arrested or given a notice to appear in court.
Other airports, like the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport, haven’t taken such a strong stance against marijuana, however.
Passengers are free to carry their medical marijuana in the Fort Lauderdale airport if they have the appropriate documentation, with no risk of confiscation or arrests.
Medical marijuana advocates called the new policy in Orlando “unnecessarily cruel.”
“You'd never ask someone not to bring their bottle of prescription drugs to an airport,” Florida For Care executive director Ben Pollara told Sunshine State News. “It's also out of line with how literally every other airport in America in a legal marijuana state (medical or otherwise) treats the issue.
Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to expand the use of medical marijuana in Florida last November, with 71 percent of them saying “yes” to Amendment 2, which legalizes medical marijuana for certain patients with “debilitating” medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Florida lawmakers just recently worked out a regulatory system for the newly-expanded medical marijuana business in Florida. The new regulations are set to be fully implemented by July 4 or upon Gov. Rick Scott’s approval.