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Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 9:05 AM

OST-2003-15270 - Rosenfeld v. American Airlines


Irvin Rosenfeld v. American Airlines

May 1, 2003

OST-03-15270 - Transportation of Marijuana Aboard Civil Aircraft

Verified Complaint

On March 21, 2003, Mr. Rosenfeld made a reservation on American Airlines for travel on April 16, 2003. After making his reservation, Mr. Rosenfeld informed American that he would need to travel with medical marijuana provided to him by the federal government. In response, American told Mr. Rosenfeld that he would not be allowed to fly unless he provided American with a medical certificate stating that he is able to understand and respond to safety instructions.

Exhibit 1
Exhibit 2 - Letter from Sheila Bedi
Exhibit 3 - Letter from Julia Jones
Exhibit 4 - Medical Certificate

Counsel: Sheila Bedi, 202-662-9546, sb238@law.georgetown.edu


May 28, 2003

OST-03-15270 - Rosenfeld v. American

Letter Confirming Extension of Time

This letter is to confirm that your office has granted us a 15-day extension of time, or until June 24, 2003, to answer the captioned complaint under 14 CFR 302.405.

Counsel: Carl Nelson, 202-496-5647, carl.nelson@aa.com


June 23, 2003

OST-03-15270 - Transportation of Marijuana Aboard Civil Aircraft

Answer of American Airlines

American Airlines, Inc., under 14 CFR 302.408, hereby answers the complaint filed on May 23, 2003 by Irvin Rosenfeld, a national advocate for the medical use of marijuana. Mr. Rosenfeld alleges that he was "discriminated against" by American because, although American allowed him to travel with his marijuana, American required him to produce a physician's letter indicating that he could follow crewmember safety instructions while under the influence of the drug.

Mr. Rosenfeld filed a DOT complaint against Delta on March 26, 2003 (OST-2003-14808)

Counsel: American, Julia Jones, 817-967-2784, julia.jones@aa.com


OST-03-15270 - Transportation of Marijuana Aboard Civil Aircraft

November 25, 2003

Notice of Substitution of Counsel

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that Richard McKewen is hereby substituted for Sheila Bedi as counsel for Complainant Irvin Rosenfeld in this proceeding. Please serve all future notices, pleadings, testimony, correspondence, and other papers upon the undersigned.

Counsel: Institute for Public Representation, Richard McKewen, 202-662-9546, rm322@law.georgetown.edu


Order 2006-7-20
OST-2003-15270 - Transportation of Marijuana Aboard Civil Aircraft

Issued and Served July 17, 2006

Order Dismissing Complaint

In Order 2004-3-27, an order dismissing a third party complaint, our Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings interpreted Mr. Rosenfeld’s exemption as entitling him to possess government-supplied marijuana during domestic travel, although it concluded that the documentation he tendered to Delta agents to corroborate his exemption was not sufficiently definitive to warrant enforcement action. I affirmed the complaint’s dismissal in Order 2004-5-25, noting in dicta that the earlier order had endorsed the “right” of the complainant to travel with marijuana so long as he had adequate documentation confirming his enrollment in the IND trials. The decision reached in those orders was based on our conclusion at the time that Mr. Rosenfeld’s marijuana was a medication. Based on our further review of the law including the most recent Supreme Court cases, we conclude that our earlier conclusions were incorrect. Because marijuana is not a medication and is a Schedule I drug, neither the Air Carrier Access Act nor 14 CFR Part 382 in any way relates to Mr. Rosenfeld’s carriage or use of marijuana.

In this case, American required medical documentation from Mr. Rosenfeld for reasons centered on his stated need to carry and use marijuana during his trip on American. Since his carriage and use of marijuana during that trip was not protected by the ACAA or Part 382, neither was he protected by those laws from airline-required documentation related to that carriage or use.

Furthermore, we do not believe this to be a useful forum for adjudicating “medical marijuana” issues. Congress, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court have already spoken with one voice on that subject. Moreover, dealing with such issues under our ACAA enforcement authority detracts from our ability to pursue “real” disability rights issues. Therefore, we do not believe that any further pursuit of enforcement action here is in the public interest.

While we do not believe that this particular matter warrants further Department action, our action here should not be interpreted as indicating a lack of Department interest or will in pursuing air carrier abuse of the limited authority to require medical certificates of otherwise qualified individuals with a disability. Section 382.53 specifies only three limited circumstances as to when such certificates can be required. These should be strictly adhered to, and where they are not the Department will not hesitate to bring enforcement action in an appropriate case, whether upon a proper complaint or on its own initiative.

ACCORDINGLY, I dismiss the third-party complaint in this docket.

By: Rosalind Knapp

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