Transportation Security Administration agents at Oakland International Airport found 81 pounds of marijuana inside a passenger’s checked suitcases.
TSA officials said Friday morning the luggage belonged to a 26-year-old woman traveling to Jackson, Mississippi.
The passenger was arrested by Alameda County Sheriff's Office deputies summoned to the airport by TSA agents. The deputies also seized three suitcases full of marijuana.
Officially, the TSA says it was a random search that turned up the vacuum-packed bricks of marijuana, but Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said agents probably smelled something suspicious.
“As most people may know, it’s not hard to smell the odor of marijuana,” Kelly said. “It’s very hard to conceal that odor.”
Investigators believe the passenger intended to cash in upon arrival in Mississippi.
“We in California are known for having high quality marijuana, and lots of it,” Kelly said. “So it’s basically being exported out of our state, we believe, to Mississippi, where it’s probably being sold at a much higher value.”
Officials said the marijuana seized at the airport may be worth as much as $500,000 in Mississippi.
While the passenger in this case is under arrest, the TSA says passengers who fly with much smaller amounts of marijuana don’t typically go to jail, as long as they have a medical marijuana card.
“Normally, if it’s an allowable amount of marijuana, when the police officers respond, they just allow the passenger to go on and travel,” TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez said.
This time police canceled the trip.
“It’s one of the larger drug busts that I recall in my 12 years with the TSA,” Melendez said.
Kelly said investigators are hoping to learn who the woman was working with and whether she has taken this kind of “business trip” before.