TSA tray for marijuana LA Times/Robin Abcarian
TSA tray for marijuana

Cannabis Ads at TSA Checkpoints: A Sign of the Times

Traveling With Marijuana Just Took On A New Twist

Posted by:
Laurie Lyons on Friday Nov 3, 2017

Cannabis Ads at TSA Checkpoints: A Sign of the Times


Cannabis Ads at the Airport? TSA Says You Bet from CannabisNet on Vimeo.


An article written by Robin Abcarian for the LA Times reveals that we are indeed living in interesting times – more progressive times, that is.


Abcarian discusses how he walked through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Ontario International Airport last week, and saw for himself that cannabis was being advertised. The tray for the writer’s belongings said in block letters, “CANNABIS IS LEGAL”, with the fine print saying, “Traveling with it is not. Leave it in California.”


The ads were clearly placed by Organa Brands, a prolific cannabis company that’s been around for 7 years now.


The fact that the ads were allowed is shocking, considering that the TSA is a federal agency, which means that to them, cannabis is still illegal. Even though California will be entering a new chapter in its legalization history come January 1, 2018; cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level. The Drug Enforcement Agency considers cannabis as dangerous as cocaine with no known medical uses, no matter what the science says.


Despite the fact that the TSA prohibits political ads, it’s another company that regulates the advertising messages that are used in the trays that enter the x-ray machines. According to TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers, local airport authorities work with another company to supply these bins. Dankers adds that TSA is “not part of that financial deal.”





“Cannabis Is Legal” Campaign


The “Cannabis Is Legal” campaign was developed by Jackson Tilley, Organa’s public relations manager. Tilley approached Organa Brands c0-founder Jeremy Heidl with the campaign suggestion after seeing a dating app being advertised at the Denver International Airport. Tilley said, “This is absolutely something we have to do.”


Organa Brands launched in 2010, and today is one of the biggest cannabis companies in the market. Organa Brands’ first products were cannabis extracts, and they eventually expanded into the production of vape pens using disposable cartridges then edibles. Organa Brands has presence in 11 states, operates 12 production facilities, and sells hardware internationally in 19 countries. Heidl recently transferred the company to Puerto Rico and estimated its annual sales as at least “north of $100 million.”


Heidl was pessimistic when Tilley first approached him about advertising in airport, saying that he tried to be supportive. “I said, ‘Sure, Jackson.” But I was thinking, ‘Never going to happen.’” After Heidl gave his go-signal, Tilley got in touch with Security Point Media, a company in Florida established after September 11. The company has a patent on plastic trays and carts that are moved around airport security checkpoints. “If you see that anywhere in the U.S., that is part of our intellectual property,” says Security Point Media president and chief executive Joe Ambrefe.


Sacramento International Airport was the first airport to agree to Tilley’s cannabis campaign. However, right before the trays were set to be delivered, airport officials backed out at the last minute, which was probably a good idea considering that “Cannabis illegal to carry across state lines” was the message officials approved.


“That doesn’t send the right message,” says Heidl. “And we could look bad saying ‘cannabis is illegal.’ We are working hard to normalize it and do good. We felt like this was a responsible campaign.”


The writer says that he purchased a one-way ticket from Ontario to Oakland last week for the purpose of seeing it for himself. He then admitted to giggling once he got a close-up view of the trays when passing through the security checkpoint. He also said that he came across three TSA agents who ushered him through, who all seemed confused while passengers were “either mildly abused or blasé.”


He did, however, find passengers who had an opinion about the trays. Russ Silhanek, a 59-year-old retired patient with a disability, who uses medical cannabis to help him treat his pain, says that he was put off by the warning that it’s illegal to take cannabis across state lines since his checked-in luggage contained his valuable medicine. “This is like telling people, ‘You can’t take your medicine with you,” he says.


According to Dankers, “If TSA officers come across marijuana during their regular screening duties, in checked or carry-on bags, they will notify local law enforcement, who determine what happens next.”










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