Medical marijuana is a blessing for many patients, a great deal of whom are unable to find a similar sense of relief through traditional pharmaceutical medications. Unfortunately, traveling with medical marijuana can seem daunting, particularly if those travels lead you somewhere where cannabis consumption has not yet been legalized.
First, it's important to make sure you're aware of all of the laws wherever you're traveling. Medical marijuana is legal in many places, but most of the time, states don't allow transfer of cannabis products from other states or allow for legal marijuana to travel out of their own state. If you're traveling to another state that allows medical marijuana, you may be able to receive a card in that state for the purchase of cannabis during the duration of your travels to prevent unnecessary issues. If that's not possible and you choose to travel with marijuana, here's a variety of information to help reduce your chance of running into problems.
Before leaving, travelers should check with restrictions in their home state, and the state they're traveling to in order to determine the maximum amount of medical marijuana allowed in their possession. Carrying less then the maximum amount of medical marijuana can reduce many major problems you could encounter with law enforcement. If you have more cannabis in your possession than allowed, you may run into problems beyond a misdemeanor of carrying a small amount of cannabis. For longer trips, travelers can make contact with dispensaries in destination cities to obtain additional medical marijuana as necessary and, as mentioned earlier, become aware of what cards and qualifications are needed to be eligible to buy medical marijuana in the state.
An important point to remember: While it's OK to travel with cannabis that has already been prepared for medical use, live marijuana plants are never approved for travel except in very limited circumstances. Plants may be moved directly in the instance of moving to another home, or when bringing them directly from a dispensary to a residence in states that have medical or recreational cannabis. Transporting cannabis plants on other occasions may lead to legal problems.
Traveling within the same state usually poses no issue when it comes to bringing an appropriate amount of medical marijuana along. You can drive with medical marijuana in your car, though it's recommended that you do not have it in plain sight. Keeping your marijuana in the trunk and traveling with less fragrant items, like edibles over cured plants, can reduce your risk of increased problems if you're pulled over for a simple traffic infraction. Going to another state, however, can cause bigger issues. Consider the following:
If a destination state has not legalized the use of cannabis as a medical therapy, travelers could run the risk of legal problems with both local authorities and federal agents during their travel.
If your destination is a state that has legalized marijuana use, travelers should avoid traveling with a larger amount than is legal to transport. Additionally, if a destination state doesn't border the traveler's home state, it would be prudent to check the legality of transporting medical marijuana through the states in between.
Some states offer reciprocity for medical marijuana cards, usage and dispensary access. Check with destination states to determine the need to register locally or obtain marijuana on arrival.
Traveling outside of the United States can be particularly challenging, as transportation of marijuana may run up against drug trafficking restrictions. At border checkpoints or customs entry points, people and luggage may be subject to searches. Checking ahead on marijuana legalization in a particular country can determine risk factors for traveling with cannabis, as well as the availability of obtaining cannabis on arrival. Trying to cross international lines with cannabis could cause major problems and could lead to altercations with foreign authorities.
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Air transportation can be quite a challenge with cannabis. We're used to constantly seeing drug dogs patrolling airports for the presence of illegal substances. The TSA’s stance on marijuana is that, “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer. Whether or not marijuana is considered legal under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law.
Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.”
Bottom line: TSA isn’t looking for your cannabis, but if they find it, they will often seize it. Here are some tips on how to prevent them from accidentally finding your medication.
A checked bag is far more likely to be searched than a carry-on bag is. Carry-on bags are only searched in depth when there was something suspicious detected in the initial screening. Make sure you're following all of the other TSA rules, like not stashing large liquids or removing your computer from your carry-on bag to avoid a more in-depth search of your belongings. Checked bags are more routinely screened, so you're more likely to have your medical marijuana discovered in a checked bag. Odor is also a very important factor to consider; this is what's most likely to get your cannabis detected, so traveling with more inconspicuous medical marijuana can be a better choice than carrying a vaporizer or plants.
Airports in states where medical and recreational marijuana have been legalized have begun to come out with their own rules regarding traveling with marijuana. Denver International Airport (DIA) has actually banned marijuana from their airport grounds, and there are drug dogs present. If DIA authorities find marijuana on you or in your luggage, they will confiscate it from you. It's, however, only an administrative charge if you're found with cannabis on the property, not a criminal one. Often authorities will give you the opportunity to bring your cannabis back to your car, give it to a friend or throw it away rather than directly confiscating your cannabis and charging you with an offense.
Meanwhile, PDX Airport in Portland has taken a very different approach than DIA has. You're allowed to take marijuana with you if you're flying to a location within the state, so it's allowed in the airport. If airport authorities find cannabis on you, they'll check with the port police to make sure you're carrying the legal limit of cannabis and confirm that your ticket says you're traveling to another location within the state. If you check out on all of those items, then you're allowed to continue on with your travels with your cannabis in tow.
Edibles are a great choice for travel because they're less conspicuous than vaporizers or plants are, especially if you need to dose as you go. Small edibles that come in the form of mints, bite-sized chocolates or tinctures can lead to easier travel dosing. Containers that reduce the transmission of smell can also help you feel secure while you travel and leave you less vulnerable to complications.