Airport scanners can detect weed, though not in the way you might think so.

Airport scanners are only able to create detailed images of your luggage that security personnel will then inspect more closely if they see something suspicious.

Based on the range of energy that passes through an airport scanner, images of your items will either come up as orange, green, or blue.

This represents organic material (orange), non-organic materials (green), or metals and hard plastics (blue/black).

What Weed Looks Like On An Airport Scanner

On an airport scanner, the color orange represents any biological material.

This includes weed.

A TSA agent will pay particularly close attention to any item that shows up as orange on the scanner because explosives are often partly composed of organic materials like glycerin, and potassium nitrate.

What Weed Looks Like on an Airport Scanner
Source: tsatestprep

What Edibles Look Like on an Airport Scanner

In this image showing what edibles look like on an airport scanner, you can see that edibles just look like any other food item on an airport scanner.

This is especially true if they are packaged like any other common food item.

If edibles are kept in their original packaging or have a strong smell, it can be a clear giveaway of the contents.

This is how passengers are usually caught when flying with edibles.

What Weed Edibles Look Like on an Airport Scanner
Source: Wired

Related: Can You Fly With Edibles?

Airport Scanners Can Detect Marijuana Seeds

Seeds are organic matter, which means that airport scanners can detect marijuana seeds.

The seeds will come up as orange on the airport scanner, though there is some debate whether dogs can also sniff out the seeds, too.

So, it would be a bad idea to attempt to bring marijuana seeds on a plane.

The 3 Types of Scanners Found in Airports

1. X-ray Scanners

X-ray scanners use a form of electromagnetic radiation to create detailed images of the contents of your luggage.

When X-rays pass through your contents, contrasting shades in the X-ray image are generated.

As mentioned, because weed is organic material, it will come up as orange on the scanner.

2. Millimeter-Wave Scanners

That large portal-like machine that you stand in and then raise your hands is a millimeter-wave scanner.

Millimeter-wave scanners use extremely high-frequency radio waves to create distinct patterns in an image. Items concealed on the body or within your luggage will disrupt the waves and appear as anomalies.

So, if someone tries to hide weed in their clothing, they will get caught.

Airport Full Body Scanner
This millimeter wave scanner is used for detecting objects concealed underneath a passenger’s clothing

3. Backscatter Scanner

Backscatter scanners use low-intensity X-rays, similar to those used in medical imaging but at much lower levels.

Passengers or luggage pass between two panels, each that emit low-intensity X-rays from one side and detect the backscattered X-rays on the other side.

This produces a detailed image that security personnel use to identify concealed items like weed.

Backscatter X-ray image
What a Backscatter X-ray sees

What Happens When An Airport Scanner Detects Weed

If an airport scanner detects weed, a TSA agent will confiscate the weed and report the passenger to local authorities.

cannabis in a container
If a TSA agent finds weed, they have a duty to report you

Keep in mind that the process and authorities’ involvement will depend on local state laws and airport ordinances.

TSA Agents Don’t Really Care About Weed

It may surprise you to learn that the TSA does not check for drugs. so TSA agents aren’t really concerned with finding your weed.

They are much more interested in dangerous items like explosives and guns.

But a TSA agent has the responsibility of confiscating and reporting any forbidden item to the relevant authorities if discovered, including weed.

How to Hide Weed from Airport Scanners

The best way of hiding weed from airport scanners it to either hide a small amount of weed in body cavities or to carry edibles.

Airport scanners largely cannot detect items inside the human body.

Edibles look just like regular food items as long as they are taken out of their packaging, though the odor can still be an issue.

Other ways passengers have had success hiding weed is by placing small quantities inside shampoo or moisturizer bottles.

Airport Future Technology & the Detection of Weed 

Terahertz Scanners and advanced CT scanners, which are currently experimental and difficult to mass produce, may be able to detect weed outright.

Terahertz Scanner hidden object detection
A Terahertz Scanner showing a hidden object

They use higher frequencies, artificial intelligence and AI, to potentially detect all banned items outright, including weed.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).