Pubdate: Thu, 05 Sep 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Scott McCartney


In the cloudy world of travel with marijuana, what gets dispensed in
Vegas should probably get smoked in Vegas.

Marijuana tourism is booming here, as it has in Colorado, Oregon and
elsewhere. But what's allowed and what's legal at airports and hotels
can feel like a confounding set of contradictions.

Possessing limited quantities of recreational marijuana is legal in
Denver and Las Vegas, but it's illegal at the airports in those
cities. Not true in Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle, where possession
at the airport is allowed up to certain limits.

And what may be legal locally isn't legal federally, or in most
destination states. It's also illegal to transport marijuana across
state lines, even from one state where it's legal to another. So the
federal Transportation Security Administration is in a tough spot. TSA
is supposed to be looking for things that get you killed, not high.

Even advertising at the airport is tricky. The Las Vegas airport
prohibits pot ads in the terminals, so dispensaries have plastered
them on taxis that line up at airport doors to advertise cannabis as
soon as visitors walk out.

TSA says its officers, who are administrative and can't arrest
anybody, aren't actively engaging in joint enforcement. Screeners
aren't searching for marijuana or cannabis-infused products, TSA
spokeswoman Danielle Bennett says.

There's a big however, however. "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," Ms. Bennett says.

One path to a bad trip: TSA X-ray scanners sometimes flag organic
material, which sometimes can have the same density as explosive materials.

In states where marijuana is legal, if you're within legal limits,
you're released. "We cannot make any arrests if they don't violate
state law," says Perry Cooper, Sea-Tac Airport spokesman.

Some airport police agencies will confiscate your purchased weed, but
others allow you to leave with it. In California, for example, if you
bought it legally and are legal to possess it under California law,
"airport police would not have any legal authority to prevent anyone
from traveling with it," says Rob Pedregon, spokesman for the Los
Angeles Airport Police.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states, with Illinois also
in the process of legalization. Some airports in legalized states say
calls to investigate have gone up considerably. In Portland, Ore., for
example, where recreational marijuana became legal four years ago,
marijuana calls from TSA to Port of Portland police have jumped to 137
through July this year from 14 in all of 2014.

If a traveler is of legal age and has a legal amount and a boarding
pass for a destination in Oregon, he or she may fly with marijuana. If
the boarding pass is for out of state, the police ask passengers to
get rid of the pot before flying.

"Very few recreational users seem to have an issue with the rules as
they've been set forth," says PDX airport spokeswoman Kama Simonds.
"Most of the issues we have at the airport are with large, illegal
quantities that suggests attempted illegal activity from criminal elements."

LAX says it saw an increase in referrals from TSA and from
marijuana-related arrests initially after legalization, but those
numbers have dropped off as people better understand the local laws.
Same in Denver.

Marijuana tourism is a big deal. The Colorado Department of Revenue
says marijuana sales are up to more than $1.5 billion a year, and
while the bulk of sales go to the one million users in-state, an
estimated 19 million visitors to Colorado bought weed there in 2017.
About 60 million people go through Denver's airport annually.

Taking legally purchased marijuana home may be more of a temptation,
since consuming it when traveling can be far more difficult than
people realize.

In Las Vegas, dispensaries near the Vegas Strip report 75% to 85% of
sales come from travelers, some of whom walk in straight from the
airport with their luggage. But casinos prohibit all forms of
marijuana, including vaping and edibles. If room cleaners find a
stash, they can confiscate it. Security watching hotel lobbies
sometimes stop guests with dispensary bags and seize purchases.
Casinos have federal gambling licenses and don't want federal crimes
committed on their property.

Hotels typically levy heavy fines for smoking in rooms. The
deep-cleaning fee at Mandalay Bay and Bellagio is $500 for a standard
room. Car rental firms have similar policies, and smoking weed in cars
remains illegal.

One legal way to smoke: get a smoking-allowed room on Airbnb or house
with a private yard. (The high-end Cosmopolitan does have rooms with
open-air balconies, though the hotel says consuming marijuana on
terraces isn't permitted.)

Smoking isn't allowed in public in most places where it has been
legalized, but walk on the Strip or downtown Vegas and you can stumble
upon the unmistakable whiff of pot.

The Las Vegas airport has installed green amnesty boxes at the most
heavily used entrances, and people do use them, says Chris Jones,
airport chief marketing officer. On a recent day, the box at a taxi
drop-off spot smelled. The airport has a contractor empty boxes under
police supervision and destroy contents.

Dispensaries do deliver, but they can't drop weed at Strip hotels, and
they can't be located on the Strip. They get as close as they
can-Planet 13 opened a marijuana "superstore" in November about a
15-minute walk from the Encore at Wynn.

The company is already expanding, trying to become a tourist
attraction with live entertainment acts and a restaurant. Executives
also have an eye on building a lounge for consumption if that should
become allowed. Visitors will be able to see marijuana processed and
packaged, even marijuana chocolates being made.

Dispensaries offer child-resistant and smell-resistant bags. They also
typically have warning signs about consumption restrictions and
travel, and salespeople try to educate consumers.

"They are finding a way," says Adam Laikin, chief marketing officer at
Tryke, the parent of Reef Dispensaries, a dispensary chain. "It's
certainly easier than it has been for a lot of history."
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