Cannabis amnesty boxes: is anyone actually using them?

Cannabis amnesty boxes: person holds wallet as bag is x-rayed

Travelers flying through Chicago have likely seen the green metal boxes emblazoned with ‘CANNABIS AMNESTY BOX.’. The boxes are located at the end of the Transportation Security Administration at the O’Hare Airport in Chicago—like, after the scanners and x-rays.

The boxes are emptied by the local police, so to find out more we reached out to Maggie Huynh from the Chicago Police Department communications team.

“Yes, it’s at the end of the checkpoint,” Huynh shared with GreenState over email. “If travelers are found with cannabis while going through the checkpoint they are asked to dispose of it using the boxes.”

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Cannabis Amnesty Boxes in Chicago Airports

The depositories, installed in January 2020 as adult-use legalization took effect in the state, are the last place to drop any cannabis from a trip to the state. There are 12 amnesty boxes at O’Hare and one at Midway Airport.

Huynh explained that CPD officers empty the boxes, an inventory is created, a report is made, and abandoned products are disposed of. They follow very similar protocols used when handling narcotics evidence.

Only a small number of airports have installed these boxes, and now that it’s been a few years of operations, I’m curious if they’ve served much of a purpose. Many participants on a long-winding Reddit thread have speculated and joked about where the weed actually goes.

And beyond that, everyone I’ve asked said they either consume or dump all cannabis products before heading to the airport. These reports leave me wondering: who actually uses these amnesty boxes, and how often?

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Huynh shared about the location of boxes and the purpose that they serve, but the amount of product sacrificed is only available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The information has been requested and a reminder message has been sent, but there was no response before publication.

Traveling by air with cannabis in other airports

While no official statement has been made, the federal illegality of the plant makes bringing cannabis on a flight illegal. The official stance from the Transportation Security Agency is that agents will not go searching for cannabis, specifically the medically-prescribed sort, but if they find any federally illegal substances they are required to report it to local, state, or federal authorities.

The rule of thumb for many cannabis consumers is to note the departure and arrival locations before packing pot. For example, traveling from Los Angeles to California with cannabis would be less dangerous than flying from Oregon to Nashville. If both states have regulated cannabis programs, it’s less likely that agents will flag a suitcase for possession of the plant.

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Some also swear by carrying on edibles, flower, or extracts rather than checking them, but all of these tips come solely by word of mouth and should not be taken as legal advice.

While this dive didn’t fully illuminate the mysteries within Chicago’s airport amnesty boxes, there is some solace. For now, we can rest easy that police officers aren’t siphoning the product into their bongs.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.