‘Amnesty Boxes’ in Chicago Airports Let Travelers Leave Leftover Cannabis

PHOTO: Leonard Zhukovsky/ Shutterstock.com.

CHICAGO – Travelers and cannabis tourists to newly legal state Illinois don’t have to worry about what to do with any leftover stash, if they fly home from either O’Hare or Midway, Chicago’s two main airports.

Airport officials on January 1, the first day of Illinois recreational legalization, placed “amnesty boxes” near Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stations at check-in gates at both airports, where travelers can dump cannabis products they’re afraid to take on the plane.


Though cannabis possession is now legal in Illinois’ airports, because of federal restrictions, passengers are prohibited from flying in federally regulated airspace with any cannabis products or other illegal drugs.

Media reports noted TSA is not “actively” looking for cannabis when inspecting flyer’s bags; however, if cannabis (or any illegal drug) is found, TSA is obligated to report it to federal authorities.  

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner and CNBC contributor Dr. Scott Gottlieb, M.D., took a photo of one of the bright blue boxes and posted it to Twitter with a comment that said, “The first full week of now legal, recreational marijuana in Illinois. A lot will go wrong. States are hurtling toward a long overdue collision with federal regulators that’s going to require Congress to intervene.”

McCarran Airport in Las Vegas also has amnesty boxes, which seems like a practical resource in such a highly visited city. Los Angeles International Airport officials in September 2018 announced they would no longer stop departing travelers with cannabis products, “up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana.”

The locked boxes at O’Hare and Midway airports were placed and are maintained by the Chicago Department of Aviation and will be emptied by local police, who will document and dispose of the contents.