Part grand social experiment, part technological marvel and part dystopian capitalist nightmare, the airport is in many ways ideal for marijuana.
At the airport, there are interminable waits, frenzied rushes, unexpected and unexplained stressors, and soul-grinding battles with faceless and inscrutable bureaucracies. These come in waves, one after the other, sometimes in predictable sequence, sometimes with a shift in pattern as to maximize psychological impact. Hovering all of the above is a sense of profound powerlessness. The traveler has little choice other than to open the wallet and surrender to fate. There is a reason why the airport bar is always crowded.
It is the same reason why many of us flat-out refuse to fly or even contemplate the act without a vaporizer, a fistful of edibles, some CBD drops or a dab in the car on the way to the terminal. Flying can be appalling; weed makes it less so. Cannabis and flying pair well together — surprisingly well, despite years of prohibitionist conditioning that still persuades us otherwise. This is no secret nor accident, and so it was only a matter of time before an airport adapted to the marijuana legalization era and allowed marijuana users to smoke or vape cannabis in the same places cigarette users enjoy these privileges, as Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is now doing.
Cannabis became legal for adults in Canada on Oct. 17. And though an accommodating attitude towards cannabis was already baked into the culture of Vancouver, a cosmopolitan, temperate-climate city on the Pacific Coast (the “San Francisco of Canada,” the “Seattle of Canada,” the “your-liberal-city-of-choice-of-Canada”) it was still significant for the airport, Canada’s second-busiest by volume, to update its policies last month to explicitly accommodate marijuana use.
“Smoking and vaping of cannabis is permitted on airport property in designated areas only — outside the terminal building in clearly marked areas,” the airport’s website says. “Persons smoking or vaping cannabis must use the facilities provided.”
As for traveling with the stuff, all the usual rules apply, which is to say the usual hodgepodge of rules that are often enforced erratically apply. Flying across international borders with weed is illegal but not necessarily likely to cause any trouble, depending on how much you have, what you look like, or how much of an attitude the local authorities choose to cop; flying around in Canada with weed is fine but there is some subtle and not-so-subtle differences in provincial law. (Example: The federal minimum age to possess cannabis is 18, but the law in British Columbia, where Vancouver is located, is 19).
You could fool yourself into thinking that allowing cannabis users to smoke where tobacco users smoke isn’t that big of a deal. Cosmically, it is not — it’s common sense. Culturally and contextually, it’s significant. Consumption has long been the black swan of marijuana legalization everywhere the experiment has been tried. For an airport to acknowledge this and officially adopt a common-sense solution is a new thing. And this is not something American airports have done. Indeed, Denver International Airport went ahead to declare itself exceptional among Colorado locales as a legalization-exempt zone.
But there’s another reason why this is bigger than just an airport being less intolerable. Dozens of international carriers fly in and out of Vancouver. Airports are nothing if not contagion accelerators. Thanks to Vancouver, literal millions of people every year will see people smoking weed outside, as if it were no big deal — and it’s not. That’s huge. Thanks, Vancouver!
TELL US, do you think being able to smoke marijuana at an airport is a big deal?