Air Travel and Vape Pens: Everything You Need To Know

Like me, you have probably entertained the notion of bringing along your vape pen for air travel on commercial planes. I faced the same dilemma as I was travelling home to my family for a weekend wedding. In the past, I have opted out of bringing along the vape pen and cartridges, fearing that I would be caught by the TSA or local cops.

However, this time I knew that I would benefit from having access to some Ingrid while I was dealing with the festivities, so I decided to take what I thought was a calculated risk. I did some research in the days beforehand, made some phone calls, and I did end up taking my vape pen with me all the way to the wedding.

With a little knowledge about vape pen storage prep, the various jobs for law enforcement agents, and plane travel, I was able to bring my vape pen and cartridges with me to Denver. 

A Little Preparation

I was lucky right off the bat because I happen to live in California, a state that is legal and has been mostly relaxed about weed for some time. Still, my hands were shaking a little bit as I read the information online about the prep needed to ensure that I would have a safe trip. After all, smoking weed at your house is not the same as bringing it into an airport or any place famous for strip searches and police.  

The first thing that I did to get ready for air travel was to clean out my vape pen’s case. I use cartridges for the most part, but I did use the same case as fall area for my grinder. Needless to say, I had bits and pieces of weed all over. I wasn’t sure how well my baggage would be searched, but I did not want a drug sniffing dog going crazy near my bags.

Smell Proof and Out of Sight

The next thing I did was I bought a smell-proof container to put my vape pen in while I was flying. I read that some people went crazy with the smell proof bag tucked into a solid container, but I just stuck with the solid case.

One thing to keep in mind is that no matter how 420-friendly you might be, you don’t want to bring extra attention to yourself. So if you have a case with weed designs on it, leave it at home and go for a solid black one so it looks like you are carrying headphones or something .

When packing, it’s also important to make sure that your vape pen is out of sight. You do not want to hide it per se, but it is definitely not the first thing that you want seen when you open up your bag.

Packing for The TSA

I’ll be very real for a minute here: the TSA scares me to death. I have only flown a few times now, and I hate the look of their blue shorts and latex gloves. So, naturally, I screwed up when I arrived at the bag check-in line in.

You see, in the states where weed is legal, air travel is almost an entirely different situation. You will be able to get up to security in the airport with no problem. However, every airport has its own set of basic rules that they keep. Yet, their main concerns are not focused on weed; they are focused upon illegal drugs and large amounts of drugs that are an obvious intent to sell. The bottom line is that you are not going to be able to pack a pound of weed or a dozen cartridges and get on a plane, no matter how much you whine that it’s legal.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the TSA is there to make sure that you do not take anything on planes that can affect the safety of the flight. You know how I said I messed up? I did not realize that batteries were something that cannot be stowed in the plane, they have to be put in the pressurized cabin or they risk exploding.

This means that you must put your vape pen in your carry-on bag. To repeat: You must take your vape pen onto the plane in your carry-on bag. I did not realize this fact until my bag was checked and I was asked about my vape pen.

I was fortunate enough to get away with getting scolded for trying to bring batteries on the plane. I explained that the vape pen did not burn weed nor did I have any weed on me. The agent cared more about the batteries than what I was planning to smoke. It was a small lie of omission, but I was not about to complicate the interaction by trying to explain it to the TSA agent in front of me. I was allowed to tuck the smell-proof case into my carry-on luggage and take it on the plane.  

According to my research, the TSA does not actively search for drugs, but if they find them they can and usually do involve police officers. So while the TSA agents do not mind the fact that you are going to bring on a vape pen for air travel, they will still not allow you to store it anywhere other than your carry-on.

What About Flights To Places That Are Not Legalized?

First, you need to understand that you are taking a risk, but one that many have taken before you. Simply put, if you are bringing a vape pen and cartridges, you will be less likely to be detected than someone who is stashing baggies of weed in their luggage. Vape pens are common enough now that they are barely given a second look in a lot of cases.

However, it is still very illegal to transport weed across state lines, so you will need to adhere to the aforementioned rules. Stow your vape pen in a smell-proof, non-descript case and put it in your carry on. You can even take the batteries out and store them separately in your luggage if it makes you feel better.

The same rules will apply to international flights, but the risk is even greater.

What If The Police Had Caught Me?

Like I mentioned, I was bringing cartridges across state lines which has very murky legal implications due to the primacy of state rights and weed being illegal under federal law. So I had to consider what would happen if a police officer was called over by the TSA agent instead of letting me re-pack my stash.

Basically, a lot of things are left to the discretion of the officers at the airport. They can certainly make an issue of you attempting to bring drugs over state lines, but it does not happen often when traveling to and from legalized states, which I did. In these cases, the police can perform the standard arrest, detainment, and everything else that I worried about. That does not mean that they will, though.

Still, as I mentioned, the TSA does not actively search for drugs, but if they find them they can and usually do involve police officers. So, I disembarked the plane in Denver, claimed my bag, and faced no additional problems. I thought about asking the TSA in Denver if there was anything else that I needed to know for my return trip, but I assumed that the rules would be very similar. I was wrong.

Heading Home Again From Denver

After the wedding and passing my vape pen back and forth between friends at the after party, I decided to purchase some locally-grown weed for the road. Colorado being a legal state, I did not anticipate any problems flying home from Denver. So I packed my bags again and put my vape pen in my carry-on. I did not even have any cartridges left with me, just a bit of legal weed, a new grinder card, and a sense of relief since I had already been through this once before.

I went through the TSA and my carry-on was opened for additional screening. The TSA agent did find my vape pen and case as well as my poorly-packed weed. They called over the local police and they gave me a choice. Either I can keep the weed, or I can fly home.  

You see, the TSA does not care where you are coming from or where you are going: they are supposed to notify police regardless. I left my weed and grinder (it had been used) at Denver and considered myself lucky. It did not even occur to me to question their reasoning; I was sweating bullets.  They did not care about the vape pen itself, but the weed had to stay. While I was sad to have to leave it, I learned valuable lessons on air travel with vape pens. 


Just to recap everything that I’ve learned and gone over here, consider the following:

  • Weed is illegal to transport between states because of federal law.
  • The TSA is not charged with looking for drugs, but they find them they usually have to report them
  • Vape pens are easy to hide with a smell-proof pouch, but you have to keep them in your carry-on luggage.
    • Vape pens blend in as nicotine-based vapes to many people who can’t tell the difference. Combined with the fact that cartridges do not outwardly smell as strongly as weed, you have a good chance of not being bother.
  • The rules vary by airport for drug discoveries. Check with your local airport to find out their particular take on weed. Remember, California was okay, Colorado was not for me.
  • Basically, the TSA and police have better things to do in legal states, but you international borders are another issue that may not be worth the risk.
  • Put your vape pen in your carry-on!

Overall, bringing your vape pen for air travel is not too much of a problem as long as you take precautions. Just remember to properly stow your gear and you should be able to fly without many problems.


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