Van der Pop

Mile High Malaise

ADVICEApril Pride


Dear Vandy,
Are those adorable little dogs at the airport sniffing for pot, Class A drugs, or bombs? I sometimes forget that I have a little something (neither a bomb nor a Class A drug) in my purse or toiletry bag when I travel. How much should I worry about this when I fly domestically?

Mile High Malaise

Dear Mile High Malaise,

The first answer is both D: all of the above, and E: none of the above.

See, you forgot banned produce, invasive insects, protected wildlife, and whatever else. In researching your query I realized just how serious the law is about carrying rotten avocados across the border, and I came to understand that trained canines possess a crazy ability to store all kinds of scents; they basically have an entire library of aromas they can and do respond to. But here’s the good news: some are being untrained to smell at least one of them.

The local new media in Seattle, for instance, reported in March of 2013 that the police department there was in the process of desensitizing its mutts to marijuana. But of course, those aren’t SPD dogs at Sea-Tac airport. The Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) rules all secure areas of the aviation industry, and its dogs and its people report into the federal government—and, as if you need the reminder, the federal government doesn’t recognize your newly founded recreational freedoms or your alternative medical therapies.  

The basic, mostly dependable truth is that if you’re in Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, Oregon or one of the 19 other states where you can possess weed, you can probably possess it in that state’s airports, but don’t get too cocky about it. Individual airports can ban it, and some have, and anyway, you certainly can’t legally get on the plane with it. As this highly technical and exceptionally thorough article from the American Bar Association lays out, airports are filled with federal equipment, so even as your weed passes through a scanner, for example, it’s sort of temporarily not in whatever legal state its actually in, but rather, on federal property.

Your question was specifically about dogs, but I’m pretty sure your overall concern is how to take a jar of Kush from your house in Anchorage to the Airbnb you paid on in Maui. And really, that’s a quest as ancient as any of us, right? Who among us hasn’t submerged a Ziploc of Kush into a bottle of Herbal Essences shampoo?

If you’re really serious about dope smuggling, here are a few of the things you want to keep in mind:

-Wear gloves: if your fingers touch the weed that goes in the Ziploc that goes in the shampoo bottle, and then your fingers touch the shampoo bottle (screwing the cap back on, whatever), no chemical approximation of tropical breeze can mask the weed smell, because you just put it on the outside of the bottle. 

-Cellophane is the least permeable of readily available plastic types, meaning it’s the best at retaining aromas of all kinds. You could also use a smell proof container before wrapping to add another layer of protection.

-Yeah, man’s best friend can basically smell fear, too. In the book How Dogs Think, best selling author Stanley Coren says they can clock your facial expressions, understand up to 150 words or so, and interpret nuances in behavior. So if you’re totally freaking out about the joint double wrapped in foil and tucked under your wool beanie, the smell might not alert TSA’s Fido, but your furtive eyes and highly anxious stance might, and if his handlers catch on, and if they’re not having a good day and/or haven’t met their monthly quotas, they may very well pull you aside.

Basically it all boils down to confidence. Well, no—it boils down to the law, but if you’ve decided you’re going to disregard the law and take some chances, how well you fare depends on how well you can pull it off. Can you fake it ‘til you make it, or are you so nervy that you’ll essentially act as your own informant?

I’ll tell you one thing: if it were me, I wouldn’t try to bring any homegrown citrus along for the ride. 

Highest regards,

Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.


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