Crime

Marijuana grinder stalls flights from Bellingham airport

TSA personnel found this marijuana grinder, designed to resemble a grenade, inside carry-on luggage at Bellingham International Airport on Saturday morning, April 9. The discovery prompted a response from the Bellingham Police Department bomb squad and delayed four departing flights.
TSA personnel found this marijuana grinder, designed to resemble a grenade, inside carry-on luggage at Bellingham International Airport on Saturday morning, April 9. The discovery prompted a response from the Bellingham Police Department bomb squad and delayed four departing flights. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A marijuana grinder that resembled a grenade found in carry-on luggage led to delayed flights at Bellingham International Airport over the weekend, officials said.

Transportation Security Administration personnel found what looked like a grenade inside the luggage passing through screening equipment at about 8:30 on Saturday morning, April 9, said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers.

TSA officers identified the man who owned the luggage, who said all that was inside were clothes, Dankers said. Officers searched the luggage to find a camouflage object that looked like a grenade.

Following standard procedure, security evacuated the screening and boarding areas, said airport spokeswoman Marie Duckworth.

The Bellingham Police Department’s bomb squad was called in to examine the suspicious item and later determined it was a device used to grind marijuana. It had been designed to look like a grenade, however.

Four departing flights were delayed, Duckworth said, but incoming flights continued to land.

In situations like these, Dankers said, TSA officers can’t simply rely on a passenger’s word about what an object is.

“That’s why we have these processes in place — it’s just what we have to do,” she said. “Passengers can be helpful, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t verify.”

The man ultimately was released and allowed to board his flight, Dankers said.

TSA personnel aren’t typically on the lookout for illegal items like drugs or paraphernalia, but rather objects that pose a threat to travelers, Dankers said. But when officers do come across illegal items — even marijuana, which is still illegal at the federal level — the case is referred to local law enforcement to determine how to deal with it.

“They’re not looking for that sort of thing,” Dankers said of the TSA’s officers. “They saw an image of a grenade, and it led them to this.”

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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