ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - It is now illegal to have any type of marijuana, even medical marijuana, at the Orlando International Airport.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board unanimously approved the medical marijuana ban Wednesday.
A draft policy published this week by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority puts medical marijuana users at risk of arrest when flying out of Orlando International Airport, despite 71 percent of Florida voters choosing to legalize weed for medical uses last November.
The draft policy seeks “to clarify that, despite the Florida constitutional amendment legalizing the use of Marijuana for medical purposes and the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of Marijuana by the City of Orlando, Marijuana is prohibited from being brought onto Airport Property.”
It goes on to say marijuana, including items for medical use, will be confiscated going forward. And that “any person violating this provision will be detained or arrested by a Law Enforcement Officer.”
"We are not a law enforcement agency. We are not walking around trying to look in anybody's pocket," said Marcos Marchena, GOAA general counsel.
Among OIA’s 42 million visitors each year, the Transportation Security Administration doesn’t actively search for marijuana, a representative told Eyewitness News on Tuesday. But she said if agents find it, they’ll notify local law enforcement, who would then be acting under GOAA’s policies.
The rules ban all forms of marijuana and its extracts, including items like the low-THC, high CBD medical cannabis Bruce Grossman relies on to fight chronic pain. He said he can’t imagine going on a trip without the medical marijuana.
“I would be in pain. Very simple,” Grossman said.
A GOAA spokesperson told Eyewitness News the authority’s legal team had determined federal funding received by the airport could be rescinded if the OIA began tolerating marijuana on-site.
"If the federal government comes to look, to make a determination of whether the airport is following all federal laws and regulations, that we can say, "Here's our policy. We're following all federal law,'" Marchena said.
Though local laws and ordinances have legalized and decriminalized the drug in various capacities, federal law considers marijuana a Schedule I narcotic. It contains no exceptions for alternative formulations or medical usage.
"I think it's only a matter of time until things change,” Grossman said.
Eyewitness News asked whether airport officials whether waivers would be available for people who can't leave their medication behind, but received no response Tuesday.
Other airports rules
Representatives from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said if passengers have the proper documents, medical marijuana is allowed. And anyone at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport can have marijuana thanks to the state of Washington’s full legalization.
However, in Denver, any kind of marijuana is banned at the airport despite legalization in Colorado.
Ben Pollara, with United for Care, said since marijuana is being used by many people as a medicine, it should be treated that way by airport officials.
"You wouldn't ask a patient to get on an airplane without their penicillin, and you shouldn't ask them to get on without their marijuana, if that's what their doctor has recommended," he said.
Orlando police won't enforce OIA medical marijuana ban
The Orlando Police Department has said it will not arrest anyone lawfully carrying medical marijuana, even on airport property.
Airport administrators have not determined what the penalty would be for a passenger found by OIA staff lawfully carrying medical marijuana.
The measure goes into effect immediately. The airport authority plans to post signs advising flyers of the changes and to document what’s prohibited on-site.
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