What's a Cannabis Amnesty Box?

Following Illinois' successful launch of legal cannabis sales, airports throughout the state have begun setting up "amnesty boxes" so travellers can dispose of their cannabis before flying.

As we spoke about at the start of January, Illinois' first week of cannabis sales was hugely successful. Commencing on the 1st of January, the state of Illinois made over $3 million on the first day of cannabis sales. After 12 days, the state had sold nearly $20 million in pot. Illinois' first week's worth of pot profits was higher than any other state has seen after legalizing the plant, with Oregon in 2nd place, who sold $11 million worth of cannabis in its first week.

Though alongside the addition of cannabis dispensaries throughout the State, is the addition of bright blue metal boxes in Illinois Airports. The blue boxes are being called a "Cannabis Amnesty Box" and are designed for residents to dispose of their cannabis before boarding a flight.

The boxes are an initiative started by Chicago's Department of Aviation, and serviced by the Chicago Police Department as it currently remains illegal to take cannabis across state lines. While cannabis is legal in 11 U.S. states, the plant remains federally illegal. Only in Los Angeles Airport can you take cannabis with you on a flight, assuming you are travelling to a state where it is legal.

"The boxes, placed at the end of every TSA checkpoint at both O'Hare and Midway, were in place once the new cannabis law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The boxes are where travellers can safely dispose of cannabis and cannabis products prior to travel, as they still remain illegal under federal law," Maggie Huynh, spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, told USA Today.

Police will be routinely emptying out the amnesty boxes and treating the contents as they would with any other narcotic, which is to say that they'll be regularly disposing of it. Amongst discussion of the new cannabis disposal boxes, many are suggesting that Illinois should not only allow people to dispose of their cannabis prior to boarding a flight, but the state should also allow new arrivals to collect cannabis from the box, as a "hearty welcome" to the state.

Overall, the initiative to set up amnesty boxes for cannabis is a welcome idea, given the ever-changing landscape of cannabis laws which often contain many shades of grey. When cannabis was initially legalized in the U.S., airport confiscations skyrocketed, until people became familiar with the rules and regulations surrounding cannabis and flying.

The same occurred with CBD, which was deemed federally legal following the 2018 Farm Bill but remained illegal to carry onto a plane until the TSA approved the compound for flying. In the brief period while CBD was illegal to fly with, CBD confiscations spiked, and Police reports acquired by NBC showed that passengers as inoffensive as a 71-year-old woman were being arrested on felony charges for possessing CBD products. It then became clear that most passengers weren't seeking to get high, but rather were using the CBD in order to alleviate some form of pain, or to help them sleep.

In fact, at the time of permitting CBD on flights, the TSA released this statement:

"Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer."

While cannabis still remains very much illegal to bring onto a plane, one has to wonder if the TSA explicitly said they will "not search for marijuana" in order to highlight their loosening stance on cannabis.

As cannabis continues to be made legal in an increasing number of states throughout the U.S., you can expect many more cannabis-centric initiatives such as the cannabis amnesty box to pop up in response to the inevitable hiccups that occur along the way.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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