There are a lot of times when the confliction between state and federal marijuana laws have caused problems – but this is probably the first time a court order has been issued for the police to release someone’s jar of bud. In Alaska, where cannabis is legal, people who travel by air and are only traveling within the state wouldn’t think to leave their bag behind – it’s legal, so it should be allowed to travel within the state, or at least one would think. Unfortunately the Transportation Security Administration, more commonly known as the TSA, is run by the federal government, which means they have to abide by federal laws over state laws.
In the event that someone is found to have marijuana, even in a legal state (even if their flight isn’t leaving the state), it will have to be reported to the local police. Once the police file a short report – more of a log entry in case the FBI ever wanted to look into it – the person in possession of the cannabis has three choices: put it in their car, give it to a friend who is not boarding the plane, or hand it over to the police who will dispose of it or hold it. In the case of Frank Berardi, he chose to hand it over with the understanding that they would be holding it.
After taking his trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage and back home, Berardi decided that he would ask the local police to release his marijuana now that he had returned. Sadly, the police said that they were unable to just give the bag back to him after he had voluntarily handed it over. So instead of just giving in Berardi went to his attorney, who managed to get him a court order from a judge requiring that the Fairbanks International Airport Police and Fire Department return his property – that 8 grams of Pineapple Express.
Though the TSA does have to report all marijuana found, they are working with local law enforcement to make it as simple of a process as possible. After all, they are not looking for marijuana specifically – they are looking for knives and other dangerous items or even drug traffickers – not regular people taking a trip who want to travel with their herb. Unfortunately, while federal and state laws continue to conflict the way they do, things like this are simply bound to happen.
It worked out well for Frank Berardi. He may have spent $4,000 in legal fees, but he says it was absolutely worth it. I can’t argue with that. Think about it – just a few years back and you wouldn’t have been hearing about a man who got the court to force police to give him his marijuana back. We really have come a long way with marijuana reform and hopefully more people will decide to take action and claim their property back when it must be handed over in order to make a flight.