Las Vegas wants your leftover weed to stay in Vegas

McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas recently installed more than a dozen "marijuana amnesty drop boxes."

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — including the legal weed you bought.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Nevada, but it’s still banned under federal law. That means travelers aren’t allowed to carry pot onto airplanes or transport it across state lines, even if both states have legalized it.

With that in mind, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas recently installed more than a dozen “marijuana amnesty drop boxes” around the airport, which allow passengers to ditch their stashes before going through security.


The green boxes are bolted to the ground, monitored, and “serviced multiple times a week,” according to the Las Vegas Sun. The marijuana is then destroyed by a third-party contractor, according to Christine Crews, the publication information administrator for McCarran International Airport and the Clark County Department of Aviation.

The Sun also reports that the airport installed 13 boxes on Friday and plans to add seven more. The boxes are all outside the airport, including several at nearby car rental facilities.

A photo of one of the drop boxes, courtesy of the of McCarran International Airport.

“The drawer pulls out; you drop your stuff in and you close it. You can’t really get your hand in there,” Crews told the local paper. “If you start tampering with them, you’d be detected pretty quickly.” Nevada law allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or an eighth of an ounce of THC concentrates, but a separate ordinance bans pot possession (and marijuana advertising) on airport property. The Sun reports that if a traveler is caught with weed at a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, local police are summoned. If the amount is below the ounce limit, police would be summoned, and they could write a ticket. If it’s over the limit, they could be arrested and charged with felony possession.

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The rules are similar to other states with recreational marijuana laws. Weed is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law — on par with heroin, LSD, and other dangerous drugs. And TSA checkpoints are under federal control. It’s also illegal to fly with weed in carry-on or checked luggage.


A person buys marijuana at the Essence cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun reports more than 40 dispensaries in the Las Vegas area will offer Black Friday discounts on marijuana flower products, edibles such as chocolates, and concentrates. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

That said, TSA officials have admitted in the past that searching for weed is not at the top of their priority list. TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson told the New York Times last year that airport screeners and their dogs are looking for guns or explosives, not marijuana.

For example, airport authorities in Denver only stopped 29 passengers for marijuana possession in 2015, according to the Times. That’s out of more than 54 million passengers who passed through the airport. All 29 people were also carrying amounts of weed that were within the legal limit, and they were simply asked to trash the weed or take it home.

In California, a legal weed company recently placed ads in the bottom of the bins at the security checkpoints at Ontario International Airport, east of Los Angeles, USA today reported. The message read: “Cannabis is legal. Traveling with it is not. Leave it in California.”

Los Angeles Airport Police told USA Today that if someone is stopped by the TSA with a an amount of weed legal in the state, they wouldn’t be charged with anything “because it is not a crime.”

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CORRECTION 1:52 p.m. ET 2/22: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana at the Las Vegas airport would be allowed to keep it and be free to go. Under a Clark County ordinance passed in September 2017, people caught with that amount of marijuana can receive a citation from police.

Cover image: People use newly installed automated security lanes at McCarran International airport Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Three reconfigured security lanes are equipped with upgraded features, including bins that are 25 percent larger and capable of holding roll-aboard luggage. (AP Photo/John Locher)