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Denver Cops Seizing Legal Marijuana At Airport Lost And Found

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OK, legal beagles, explain this one for me – how do Denver Cops legally justify seizing my less than one ounce of marijuana at the Denver Airport TSA Lost & Found?

Here’s the story: I went to the DPA Reform Conference in Denver. I had a small wooden stash box. In it was less than three grams of marijuana and a glass one-hitter. As I flew out of TSA, I accidentally left my stash box, as well as a small card wallet with my Oregon medical marijuana caregiver card in it and two travel pillows, at the TSA security station.

A fan read my lamentations over the situation and offered to pick up the stuff from DIA Lost & Found. I called ahead to a nice woman named Francine, who assured me my stuff had been turned in, it was all there. I let her know a friend would pick it up for me, she recorded my consent for the pickup, and all was well.

After I received the package from my fan this Saturday, I noticed a business card from Officer Dan H. Dietz of the Denver International Airport’s police taped to my stash box, which was empty.

So… it seems TSA found my stuff and turned it into lost and found, but Denver police seized my marijuana and one-hitter. Which, as I understand it, were both perfectly legal items to possess under Colorado’s constitution.

Today I called Officer Dietz and left a message, which was just returned by Officer Rick Stevens. He explained to me that TSA’s lost and found does not accept drugs, so Denver police had my marijuana and pipe, which I had to go pick up personally.

I asked, “Why is Denver police confiscating something from me that is perfectly legal under the Constitution.” He declined to get into the constitutionality of the situation and expressed that what Denver police had done was perfectly legal, without actually citing how.

He then asked me if I had a medical marijuana card. I responded that I do have a caregiver card in the state of Oregon, but my possession of marijuana in the state of Colorado requires no such card. I then explained how the stash box was an opaque, sealed item and wondered under what legal authority did Denver police open my stash box in order to seize something that is not contraband? The box size is so small there is no way I could have had more than an ounce in it; besides, they could have just weighed the box and even with the box weight, it wouldn’t have been over an ounce.

Officer Stevens again wouldn’t go into specifics, again saying what they did was legal and standard procedure. I then asked if I had left a bottle of Oxycontin for which I had a prescription, would TSA have kept the empty bottle and forced me to visit the Denver police in person to pick up my lawful medicine? He replied no, and, sensing the trap I was laying, hurriedly wrapped up the conversation.

It’s not that I need the weed – I have plenty of that. I’m also thankful to get the stash box back – it has sentimental value. But I’m a little freaked out that Denver police think they can open up sealed opaque containers and take the weed out of them when that isn’t contraband and there’s no probable cause for a search and seizure.

They haven’t heard the last of me…

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About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.

17 Comments

  1. I think the saying is….”you snooze you lose.” All of us have lost or misplaced something at one time or another. It does not necessarily mean you get it back with a bow and a thank you card.

  2. Mr. Belville; you whine and complain about this relatively minor issue and completely ignore the fact that you lost your marijuana. You sir, are the one who is at fault here, and the fact that you spewed this drivel without even realizing that smart, responsible marijuana users will shake their heads for shame at you is pretty astounding to me. Like all types of drugs, you have a responsibility to maintain control over it at all times. The fact that you “forgot” your pot in a public place is actually detrimental to marijuana activism; were you too stoned, sir, to keep track of your marijuana? Perhaps then, you are not a responsible marijuana user? I certainly don’t want you speaking on my behalf for my marijuana rights, based on this embarrassment of an article.

    Take responsibility and set the record straight: you did something stupid. You should have kept better control over your marijuana; and that, sir, is the message to take away from this.

  3. I would GUESS that once you’re in the air in another state’s airspace, it is no longer legal. That’s why TSA wouldn’t accept it. And it sounds like it’s not “confiscated” but held in Denver Police’s “lost and found” for you to pick up.

  4. “I seen on facebook where they are being sued for giving someone a body
    cavity search on the side of the highway with no authority!”

    In reference to your comment, it wasn’t a TSA worker, it was a police officer I believe frim Texas.

    Also i would love to see the article that TSA has a task force pulling vehicles over on or from an airport.

  5. What ever you do watch out in airports, TSA has been telling people over loud speaker. If you are stopped and questioned you are not allowed to joke or even question them or they will arrest you! Even when their grabbing your private parts! They also have a new task force that is tsa and does random car stops on the highway. They have no right to pull anyone over nor touch someone if they dont want to be touched! These people need to be sued and there bussines striped from them! I seen on facebook where they are being sued for giving someone a body cavity search on the side of the highway with no authority!

  6. There was a recent article dealing with this EXACT situation described. TSA said that they’re REALLY not concerned about small amounts of marijuana. Especially since 20 States have Medical Marijuana laws with WA & CO LEGALIZING it… It’d be STUPID for them to TRY to enforce it. Basically they said if you have some on you & it’s CONCEALED, that if you don’t make a BIG DEAL out of it, they won’t either. The PROBLEM with THIS situation is he LEFT IT at the Checkpoint and it went to Lost & Found. Once they (Police) SAW it… because they (Police) HAVE to check ALL LOST & FOUND items to ensure their SAFETY anas to confiscate FIREARMS & KNIVES, that’s when it was CONFISCATED & that’s adverb things CHANGED

  7. Johnny Bloomington on

    Yes you’re right! “If I had” was the clue. Quick late night reading isn’t always advised.

  8. FAA,,, The fed’s did it , If i was you i would get a lawyer that is very well up too date on all new FAA, (FAR,162 or 164 rules), I understand that Colorado, is open too marijuana but you were at a federal airport which in my mind this could go either way, being under Fed’s (FAR Rules) which i don’t think i would miss with? But i would be lawyer up before you start with them.. Sorry too hear this happen to you and you know a whole lot more about marijuana laws then i do,, Just please be careful with theses boy’s

  9. The TSA is a federally regulated agency. so they don’t have to let it through because its still illegal under federal law, it wasn’t stolen by the police they simply removed it for storage from the TSA which from the artical it sounds like they would give it back, no questions, asked if you had a card because you needed it their and it would be a felony if you didn’t

  10. Johnny Bloomington on

    Oxycontin? What’s that helping with that weed can’t if you don’t mind me asking?

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