Who, the world collectively asked, would willingly throw out perfectly good weed? As it turns out—kind of a lot of people.
Cannabis legislation in the United States is, tactfully, a patchwork. A growing number of states—including Illinois—have legalized weed for recreational or medical use, though federally, the kind bud remains a Schedule 1 narcotic, making interstate travel a dicey affair.
And so, when pot became legal to own, use, buy and, in some cases, grow in the state of Illinois, Chicago made headlines when its two largest airports—Midway and O’Hare—recently installed so-called “cannabis amnesty boxes.” The drop boxes are where a would-be traveler who “accidentally” packed some edibles before departing to Someplace Less Cool can divest their stash, no questions asked, as of January 1, 2020, when the new laws came into effect.
While not much of a smoker myself, I’ve known plenty of people who have flown (or at least claimed to have flown) with cannabis products in their carry-ons without issue. So for myself and much of the rest of the internet, “a big metal box that steals your legally purchased drugs” seems a ridiculous fixture useful to only the lowliest of self-NARCs.
As has been the case many times throughout my life, though, I was wrong—drastically so. Amnesty boxes aren’t a federal program or the initiative of any sort of non-profit group: They’re an idea Chicago’s airports lifted wholesale from two such boxes is Colorado Springs Airport (COS), located unsurprisingly in Colorado Springs, Colorado, two hours from its considerably busier brother, Denver International (DEN).
DEN is the fifth-most trafficked airport in the U.S. According to the most recent FAA data, it racked up 31,362,941 enplanements in 2018—a delightful word meaning “getting on a plane,” which I was unfamiliar with until around 20 minutes ago. By contrast, COS had 845,742 enplanements. Even with such modest numbers, the customers (passengers? enplaners???) at Colorado Springs Airport have managed to toss out 17,003 grams of cannabis products since the amnesty boxes were first installed in 2014, according to police records obtained by Gizmodo.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 37.48 pounds, not including the 26.6 pounds of sundry non-pot medications, which the Colorado Springs Police Department—which maintains the boxes—has been tracking since 2016.
Technically though, the weed deposited thusly is better described as “stuff a cop assumes is weed.”
“Items are tracked in bulk and not itemized. As this is an amnesty box, there is no effort made to positively identify the deposited materials,” Aaron Ruffalo, a records custodian with CSPD told Gizmodo. “All items are placed into our Evidence On Q system and marked for destruction.”
Yes, that’s correct—even though pot is legal in Colorado, the cops just throw it out. When reached, a Chicago Police Department spokesperson told Gizmodo that the contents of their amnesty boxes are likewise cataloged and disposed of.
What a waste.