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Denver International Airport bans pot despite Colorado's new marijuana law

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 1:12 PM EST, Mon December 30, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police won't look for pot, but they could issue a $999 ticket if they incidentally find it
  • Official: "We just want to make it clear if people are traveling that they just know the rules"
  • TSA officers at checkpoints will not look for marijuana in bags or pockets
  • Colorado becomes the first U.S. state to license retail sales of marijuana

(CNN) -- Pot smokers traveling to Denver to take advantage of Colorado's new recreational marijuana law are being warned it's against the rules to carry it through the airport.

You won't be searched and there are no drug dogs patrolling Denver International Airport, but if you are searched for another reason, you could lose your weed and face a $999 administrative fine, Denver International Airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman told CNN on Monday.

On Wednesday, Colorado becomes the first state in the U.S. to license retail sales of marijuana, which could lure visitors from other states to the "mile high city" by way of the airport. Airport officials have imposed a zero-tolerance marijuana policy to discourage them, Stegman said.

"We don't know what to expect," she said. "We hear these stories that there's going to be more people coming here. We just want to make it clear if people are traveling that they just know the rules."

Even pot smokers who are dropping Grandma off for a flight are warned to leave their stash at home. "We don't think an airport is a place that you need marijuana," Stegman said.

Airport visitors who get into trouble for fighting, being drunk or another infraction could be searched, but police will not routinely search for marijuana, she said.

Officers at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints will not look for marijuana in carry-on bags or travelers' pockets, but if they find it incidentally, it will be confiscated and airport police would be alerted, according to the TSA's published policy.

"Law enforcement will determine how to proceed with the passenger who is attempting to transport marijuana -- can include arrest, confiscation of the substance, request to dispose of the substance or allowing passenger to proceed," the TSA website says. "Passengers may be warned that if they are traveling into a state where marijuana remains illegal that they could face further consequences."

Denver police, who patrol the huge airport, will decide if a ticket will be issued, just as if it were a speeding ticket, Stegman said. An administrative law judge would hear any cases that are contested, she said.

"Signs are going up, but we still have some processes to go through," she said. "Warnings will be issued for a short period of time."

Colorado cities have authority under the new law to ban marijuana from public property, including municipal airports.

While some states are decriminalizing or legalizing pot sales and possession, federal laws against marijuana have not changed.

"We share a space with federal agencies, so we also have to respect their rules and regulations," Stegman said. We are trying to make the best of the situation. It is new, and we're all learning."

CNN's Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

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