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With federal legalization still more than half a year away, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (or CATSA—the agency responsible for airport baggage screening at security checkpoints) is already experiencing growing pains from the increasing crowds of Canadians bringing legal cannabis on flights. To ease the burden this is causing on airport personnel and local police detachments, CATSA is updating its screening policy for cannabis travellers.
Francophone news outlet TVA reports a bulletin was issued to front-line supervisors at CATSA stating that as of October, if cannabis is found by screening agents, the police will only be called in cases when the amount is larger than what would fit into a 1L bottle, or when the cannabis is abandoned.
Ambiguity remains with regards to whether the term ‘abandoned’ includes cases where a traveller with cannabis fails to produce adequate documentation to prove they are licensed, and surrenders the cannabis to screening agents, or whether the term is limited to cases where cannabis is found abandoned and without owner. At press time no response had been received to Lift’s request for clarification.
Update (2017-09-29): A spokesperson for CATSA has provided clarification on the term ‘abandoned’. CATSA screening officers will no longer notify police when cannabis is discovered or declared during the screening process and is accompanied by supporting medical documentation. Police will continue to be notified when a very large quantity of marijuana/cannabis oil is discovered or no documentation is provided. This procedural change will come into effect on October 1, 2017
The policy change is presented as a means of mitigating the increasing burden faced by both law enforcement and airport security personnel in coping with the rapid influx in recent years of Canadians flying with legal medical cannabis.
"There’s been an exponential increase,” CATSA spokesperson Suzanne Perseo told TVA, “in the number of cannabis-positive screenings or declarations of cannabis prescribed for medical purposes, which makes the work of screening officers increasingly problematic when it comes to distinguishing between legal, illegal, and smuggled cannabis."
The decision comes after consultations with several agencies, including Transport Canada. But Transport Minister Marc Garneau emphasized that federal law remains unchanged.
“The law is the law until it is amended,” Garneau told TVA, “and we fully expect CATSA and all crown corporations to be in compliance with that position."
In a recent article, Lift offered some tips for licensed medical cannabis users to help make bringing their medicine on airline flights a bit smoother a process. One of the suggestions in that article was to proactively communicate with airports by calling ahead to inform them of cannabis being brought on flights.
While the new CATSA policy makes that particular suggestion a moot point, the other tips in the article still hold up—read it here.
Featured image by IDuke.