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Airport screeners relaxing handling of passengers with medical marijuana

Last Updated Oct 19, 2017 at 9:20 pm EST

OTTAWA – Travellers who are prescribed marijuana for medical reasons have fewer hurdles to clear at airport screening points due to a change in policy by the agency responsible for security.

The Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority confirmed on Thursday that its airport screeners are no longer calling police when a passenger presents a prescription and is carrying 150 grams or less.

“We decided to change that policy because of the exponential growth in the number of passengers travelling legitimately with medical marijuana,” said Mathieu Larocque, a spokesman for CATSA.

Previously CATSA screeners would call police when they found marijuana, even if a passenger had a prescription from a doctor.

“It added time to the screening process, to wait for the police officer to arrive and to verify documentation and in most cases the documentation was valid,” Larocque said.

“We had received some complaints regarding that.”

Police officers have been called to check documentation nearly 3,000 times so far this year, Larocque said. In previous years the number of calls was closer to 200.

Police will still be called to a screening point if a passenger doesn’t have an official prescription or the amount of marijuana exceeds 150 grams.

The primary role of screening officers is to look for security threats to aircraft and not to watch for drugs, Larocque pointed out.

“Screening officers do not search for it, if they find it during the course of their search for threats to civil aviation then they ask for documentation.”

CATSA changed its guidelines at the beginning of October after consulting law enforcement agencies, airports, airlines and Transport Canada.