Passengers arriving at Denver International Airport are apparently leaving behind a fair amount of weed when they return their rental cars.
Marijuana is banned at the airport, and many travelers opt to ditch their pot in the rental cars or hand it over to workers at the rental car agencies.
“We see quite a few cases,” said one 18-year-old employee at the local Avis agency who declined to give her name. “We basically don’t touch it. Usually, the manager will take it and flush it down the toilet. We are a drug-free environment. We don’t take it or give it back. We just flush it.”
Of course, it’s an open question whether that’s really true. The take is so tempting and so easy to grab while bosses aren’t looking that it seems unlikely no one is pocketing the stuff.
Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, as did voters in Washington State. It’s now legal for adults over 21 to buy, possess, and use up to 1 ounce of pot in the state.
But toking in public is still illegal, and that includes all city property. The airport is a municipal site, so the no-smoking rule applies there. So does an additional requirement that travelers not carry weed in the airport.
“Marijuana is not allowed on airport property,” said Heath Montgomery, spokesman for the airport.
The rule is meant to cut down on interstate trafficking, among other problems. Typically, when a passenger reaches the security checkpoint with marijuana in her pocket or carry-on, she’s simply asked to throw it away or return it to her car in the airport parking lot.
If the passenger is carrying enough weed to merit criminal charges, local police would be called to make an arrest or issue a citation. From all appearances, that doesn’t happen very often.
But it is becoming more common for travelers to bring pot to the airport, whether or not they remember to get rid of it before entering the concourse.
“I have had customers come up to the counter and give it to us, asking, ‘Do you want it?’” the rental clerk said. She always declines, she said, and offers to help the passenger throw it away.
So far this year, there have been just 16 incidents in which passengers intentionally tried to carry weed through security. But that’s nothing compared to the 25 million travelers who have used the airport in that time.
“No one has been cited,” Montgomery said. “We usually just have them toss it in the trash.”