Bringing Bongs on Vacation: How to Fly or Road Trip Safely

Updated on May 21st 2023
Airplane departing from runway at sundown

Every holiday season, many of us stoners find ourselves fumbling to book flights to visit our families in prohibition states. This can pose some alarm to the chronic cannabis user. The recreational use of weed may be legal where you live. Or, at the very least cannabis may have been decriminalized. But that doesn’t mean you will find smooth sailing if you want to take the bong you just bought at our pipe shop with you when you travel.

For starters, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I narcotic by the Federal Government, putting it on par with heroin in the eyes of the current administration. As such, any time you encounter federal officials during your travels (as in TSA employees at airports) you run the risk of incurring their wrath.

All of this raises the question: “Is there a safe way to travel with a bong or glass pipe?” Read on to find out.

First, a Word of Caution

Before we get into specific tips on how to travel with a bong we’d like to propose a simple solution to the problem: don’t. We don’t recommend trying to fly with a water pipe, and herb vaporizers are out of the question. Although they are excusable and legitimate for consuming tobacco, bongs are obviously more popular in the cannabis community and some states differentiate between regular pipes and water pipes. The issue is complex, as states can make their own definitions on this regard. So know the law of wherever you’re flying when deciding what’s appropriate to pack. In some states even a clean bong could spell trouble.

Colorado is not the only state where you will find a headshop, nor is the US the only country where they exist. So if your ultimate destination is a weed-friendly one, why not just avoid all the potential hassles between here and there by leaving your bong home and buying a new one when you arrive in Amsterdam, or LA or wherever you’re heading?

If traveling, the easiest thing to do may be to just pick up some rolling papers or a new glass piece from the local smoke shop so you don’t have to worry about cleaning your current arsenal.

In other words, don’t attempt to board a flight with your bong. Leave it at home and then buy a new one when you reach your destination.

Tips for Driving Safely with a Bong

Miniature VW van beside larger real-life model

Bongs and road trips are made for each other. But authorities in some states seem to get their kicks out of hassling people when it comes to weed or weed paraphernalia. So if you’re heading on an epic road trip to Miami or Boston or elsewhere take the following tips to heart:

Don’t Use the Bong in Your Car

For that matter, don’t smoke weed in your car at all while you’re driving. The smell of quality herb has a way of lingering, (even if you have the windows open), on clothes, upholstery and other items.

Clean Your Bong Before Leaving Home

Even a little bit of unburnt herb stuck to the inside of the bowl can get you in hot water in some states. It’s not worth it. Clean your bong before hitting the road and pack it away until you reach your destination.

Don’t Carry Bongs in the Passenger Compartment

Clean your bong before leaving home and then store it in the trunk. That way, even if you’re stopped and the cops find some reason to search your car it’ll be obvious you weren’t smoking weed in it.

Can You Legally Fly From LAX With Cannabis?

California was the first U.S. state to legalize medicinal cannabis use in 1996 with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act. However, the state took surprising amount of time to catch up with the corresponding recreational counterpart—only legalizing state-wide close to ten years after Colorado burst the scene open. Seemingly on the heels of the recreational movement, it isn’t surprising to see a few innovations arise from this unique political environment. In October of 2020, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) became the first airport to officially announce an outward policy of non-intervention for cannabis holders flying out of state. Although there seem to be few caveats.

A statement on the Los Angeles International airport’s website puts it this way:

“As of January 1, 2018, California law allows for individuals 21 years of age or older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana for personal consumption. With the change in state law, the policy and procedures of the Los Angeles Airport Police Division (APD) regarding marijuana were updated to reflect this change. APD officers, who are California Peace Officers, have no jurisdiction to arrest individuals if they are complying with state law. However, airport guests should be aware that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening stations are under federal jurisdiction. Also, passengers should be aware that state-by-state cannabis laws can vary significantly, and they are encouraged to check the laws of the states in which they plan to travel.”

So basically, don’t count on sympathy from the screening agents. TSA is a Federal authority and the Feds just don’t like cannabis all that much, presently. The TSA may be more lenient in some places than in others, but even if you get your bong through your security at DIA or LAX, it doesn’t mean you’ll encounter friendly faces somewhere else.

Tips on Flying With Your Bong

Man standing with crossed leg beside light turquoise suitcase in pastel pink room

Driving with a bong can be tricky, but it can and is done all the time. Flying with a bong is another story altogether. When you get to the airport you’re going to encounter TSA officers. They work for the federal government and in the eyes of the feds, weed is a dangerous narcotic.

Bring Rolling Papers or Buy Locally Instead

This harks back to what we suggested earlier about leaving your bong home when you travel. The potential hassles you’ll encounter trying to fly with a bong are generally not worth it. Just pick one up when you reach your destination or make do with joints while you’re traveling. It’s a lot easier, a lot cheaper and in the end, you’ll still get your buzz.

We recommend this for both domestic and international travel. Why? Because even if your bong is clean and you have some tobacco with you to lend credence to the notion that you use the bong for that reason, many countries have zero tolerance for cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia.

If You Purchase a Bong Overseas, Leave It There

If you fly without your bong as we suggest and then purchase one overseas we advise you to leave it there because US customs enforces federal law and again, to the feds, weed is a no-no. Even if there is no residue in your bong, customs may confiscate it.

How to Clean Your Bong for Travel

It always surprised me to hear of people throwing away their glass reefer pipes once they collected too much resin. That is a minor standard for traditional tobacco pipes made of wood or meerschaum or other porous materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned. Glass, though, can be cleaned so thoroughly as to appear like new and hit like the day it was purchased. Let’s get into the grit of it.

There is an old and simple method that is very effective – as long as you’re willing to put in a little bit of time and elbow grease. A high proof rubbing alcohol – 91% is the most common – is like magic for cleaning glass. If you have a little time on your hands then soaking the pipe by submerging underneath alcohol in a plastic bag or Tupperware is a great way to start. Most residue with fall off overnight, but the addition of coarse salt (kosher works well) and some agitating by shaking the bag is the quickest way to get your pipe sparkling clean. You might want to run through the process a second time with a second, separate bag and clean alcohol if you really want the residual off.

Closing Thoughts From Our Denver Head Shop Team

In a perfect world, no one would ever get in trouble for carrying a bong or heady glass or any other cannabis paraphernalia. But our world is anything but perfect and so if you plan on traveling with a bong you will need to exercise caution. By taking the above tips to heart you should have a trouble-free vacation or road trip.

For one of the widest selections of high-quality bongs, stop by our smoke shops seven days a week on Evans Street and Northglenn – or order online anytime from our online smoke shop.

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