Fines set for having pot at Colorado airports

den sign

While it is now legal to possess and purchase marijuana in Colorado, anyone who brings pot to either of the state’s two busiest airports – Denver International and Colorado Springs – now risks the chance of being fined.

On Wednesday, Denver International Airport held a public hearing to formalize a policy it rolled out earlier in the month prohibiting the possession, use and consumption of marijuana for everyone – travelers, meters and greeters and workers – on airport property.

At the same time, DIA officials announced a set of “administrative citations,” or fines that would be issued as part of that policy: $150 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and up to $999 for a third offense and beyond.

“This is really a last resort for us though,” said DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. “Our primary goal is for people to comply with federal law,” which states that it is illegal to bring marijuana past security or transport it across state lines. See DIA’s new signage below, and then read on.

Stegman said that, as at other airports, if a TSA officer discovers marijuana, local law enforcement is called. “Law enforcement would look at the circumstances and determine what to do—depending upon intent, age, quantity, etc.”

If someone over age 21 is found at DIA airport with a small amount of pot, they’d likely be asked to put it in their vehicle, have someone take it away from the airport or asked to throw it away in a checkpoint trash receptacle. (DIA’s receptacles have lids with small holes, so Stegman isn’t worried about discarded marijuana being retrieved by others.) Those who decline these options would be asked to leave the airport and, before a citation would be given “other options would be explored,” said Stegman.

Signs outlining the rules will be posted at Denver International Airport within seven days, at which time airport and local authorities will begin enforcing the policy.

Starting Friday, January 10, pot is also prohibited throughout Colorado Springs Airport. According to a report in The Gazette, officials have warned the public that possession of pot at the airport could be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 – and jail time.

Those found with marijuana at the Colorado Springs Airport will have the option to give it up voluntarily, without penalty, by putting it in their cars, giving it to someone to take away from the airport or depositing it in an “amnesty box” to be destroyed.

(My story about pot fine at Colorado Airports first appeared on the Runway Girl Network)

Jet fuel made from pot? It could happen.

We know pot can get you high, but can it also help airplanes fly?

A biofuel company in Washington thinks so.

The Evergreen State recently legalized the personal use of marijuana and officials are hammering out the rules for governing how commercial growers will farm and sell the cannabis to be sold in-state.

Washington pot farmers will have plenty of unused stalks and other plant material left over after harvest and the folks at Ballard Biofuel in Seattle don’t want all that potential energy to go to waste.

They think they can make it into high-quality jet fuel.

The company already sells soy-based hydraulic oil and other biodegradable, plant-based lubricants and fuels for use in industrial machinery. Now it is working on securing cash backing to build a bio-plant that can convert the leftovers from what is expected to be a hefty, legal marijuana market into jet fuel.

“A lot of airlines would love to have renewable fuels in their jets,” says Joseph Koniak, spokesperson for Ballard Biofuel. “And the potential customers we’ve talked to don’t have a problem with marijuana waste being used as feedstock [raw material]. It’s just making sure the quality is high enough for jet fuel.”

After all, notes Koniak, if your put a bad batch of bio-diesel in your car and it breaks down, it can be a hassle. “But if you have a bad batch of biofuel on an airplane, it’s going to be an emergency,” he says. “So any alternative jet fuel has to be excellent.”

Fuel is subject to erratic price changes and represents the largest piece of most airlines’ budgets. And despite energy-saving improvements in the design of airplanes and airplane engines, commercial aviation burns gobs of conventional jet fuel and emits vast quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2).

To address some of those issues, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the aviation industry has voluntarily committed to achieving a 1.5 percent improvement in efficiency through 2020; carbon neutral growth starting in 2020; and a 50 percent reduction in net carbon emissions by 2050 compared with 2005.

“Biofuels are seen as crucial to achieving these targets,” says IATA spokesperson Perry Flint. “And the industry is focused on sustainable, drop-in biofuels that do not compete with food crops for water or soil.”

To that end, the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) was established in 2006 and, since then, plants, woody biomass from forest products, algae, municipal waste, recycled vegetable cooking oil, animal fats and sugarcane have been considered or tested in aircraft in search of safe, alternative, sustainable biofuels.

Tests using blends of conventional jet fuel with alternative biofuels began in 2008 with a Virgin Atlantic Airways flight that used coconut and babassu palm oil. Since 2011, when the American Society for Testing Materials certified a few types of biofuels for use on commercial jets, there have been more than 1,500 flights on United, Alaska, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, KLM and several other airlines using a mix of traditional and low-carbon alternative fuels.

“There is no silver bullet,” says Flint. “Biofuels work. But for them to become a viable alternative to fossil fuels, production has to take place on an industrial scale, supplies have to be made widely available and costs have to drop.”

For now, the process remains complicated and still quite expensive.

“These alternative fuels have to be specially made and the cost now is about six to eight times higher than [that of] conventional jet fuel,” says Carol Sim, director of environmental affairs for Alaska Airlines. Even if an airline signed an order for a large amount of a specific jet fuel alternative today, Sim says, “a supplier would need time to ramp up production and would probably not be able to deliver a reliable supply for a few years.”

That may be why “airlines continue to hesitate a little bit because there’s still work being done to mature the technology and the supply chain,” says CAAFI executive director Steve Csonka.

But the dedication is there and definitely moving forward.

“Passengers are increasingly interested in things they can do to reduce their impact on the environment. And travel is one of those thing they can influence,” says Jimmy Samartzis, managing director of environmental affairs and sustainability for United Airlines.

(My story about sustainable biofuel first appeared on AOL Travel)