The bags are packed, the tickets are booked, and you’re ready to embark on your next US adventure. Of course, you’ve remembered to pack an ample supply of medication — but is all of that medication permitted to cross the border? This is a question that people who use medical marijuana must answer before taking to the skies or heading out on the open road. Due to the complex legislation around cannabis products, travelling with medical marijuana can be a little bit complicated. However, here are some guidelines and rules to help simplify your cross-border travel.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in the US?
Unlike Canada, the legalization of medical marijuana is done by state in the US. At a federal level, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance. Under the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I substances are considered to have no accepted medical use and a high likelihood for dependency, which makes distribution a federal offense. However, a total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that allow public access to medical marijuana programs. As a result, the legality of medical marijuana depends specifically on the US state you travel to. Get vacation ready by researching the medical marijuana laws in your destination state ahead of time.
Travelling by Air
If you’ve ever travelled by air in the United States, then you’re probably already familiar with the TSA. The Transportation Security Administration was established to enforce tighter airport security following the events of 9/11, and is responsible for finding anything that might possibly endanger a flight or its passengers. Since the TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, a federal agency, federal regulations regarding cannabis apply to all flights. This means that even if medical marijuana is legal in the state you’re travelling to, federal regulations prohibit you from transporting it in either your carry-on or checked baggage.
According to the TSA website, officers will not specifically search for marijuana and other illegal substances. However, if they observe what they believe to be marijuana or another cannabis-infused product during a security screening, they will report it to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Even if you have documentation showing that you require marijuana for medical reasons, the TSA is unable to verify the accuracy of those documents.
So, what’s the solution if you’re travelling to the US by air? A few states, such as Washington and Oregon, will allow adults over 21 to purchase cannabis products at retail dispensaries. Other states like Delaware will recognize out of state patients as long as they’re seeking treatment for a condition that’s approved by the state. However, many states don’t have an out-of-state provision for dispensary purchases.
Travelling by Land
Clearly, travelling with medical marijuana by air is in the “not going to fly” category. Maybe you’re hoping to avoid the hassle by making your crossing via land. However, when it comes to US borders, bringing medical marijuana across by car is nearly as fraught as air travel. Just like the TSA, US Customs and Border Protection is part of the Department of Homeland Security. This means that they must enforce federal laws, which recognize all forms of marijuana as a Schedule I substance. Due to this, Canadians attempting to cross into the US with cannabis products may be subject to denial of entry, fines, arrest, and even permanent inadmissibility to the US. This can have long-lasting implications on future travel, so even if you’re just heading south on a day trip, make sure you leave your medical marijuana at home.
Like air travel, even if you have documentation stating that your cannabis products are for medical use, there is not a way for that to be sufficiently verified. In fact, CBP is pretty strict about all medications that enter the US. Only medications that can legally be prescribed in the US are eligible to be imported for personal use.
What About CBD?
When it comes to medical marijuana, cannabidiol (better known as CBD) has been steadily rising in popularity. Its main appeal is the lack of THC-induced psychoactivity, or the characteristic “high” feeling of cannabis. There have been assertions that due to the extremely low THC count in CBD oil and other products infused with CBD, it’s considered legal under federal law. However, a federal court ruling earlier this year upheld the DEA’s decision to classify CBD as a Schedule I substance, along with other medical marijuana products. This means that even though CBD may be in a legal grey area in some states, for now it’s still illegal to bring into the US when travelling.
When it comes to travelling with medical marijuana, pack smart and know the laws before you go!