If you’re one of thousands of medical marijuana patients who’s found that your cannabis regimen is working for you, you might be surprised to find some roadblocks to taking your medication with you when you travel.
Although 33 states have legalized cannabis in some form, it remains a federally illegal substance. For that reason, traveling with your cannabis across state lines violates U.S. law and traveling outside the country can land you in even more hot water. For these reasons, patients who rely on their cannabis as daily medicine need to carefully consider how medicating might play into their travel plans.
Playing it Safe
The easiest way to make sure that the cannabis you are carrying is legal is to plan a trip within your own state. Ohio may not sound like the dream Carribean vacation you desired, but there are lots of great destinations where you can camp, hike, fish, and even enjoy beaches while safely medicating.
When driving within your home state with your cannabis, here are some tips for staying on the right side of the law:
- Carry your medical marijuana card with you. While it may still not stop an officer from questioning or ticketing you, being able to quickly show your medical card can establish that you are only intending to medicate, not sell, the cannabis that you have in your car. Keeping all labels showing your name and prescription information intact and affixed to your cannabis products can also be helpful in showing officers that your cannabis is legitimate medicine.
- Don’t smoke or vape in your car. The lingering scent of smoke gives police officers probable cause to search your vehicle.
- Invite along a sober driver. While recent research has pointed to a cannabis high not being as dangerous as driving drunk, it’s important to consider that your reaction times may be slower, your peripheral vision may be decreased, and your ability to focus may be impeded. According to Road Affair, “You’re not going to necessarily drive off a cliff, but you aren’t exactly ready for a Formula 1 race, either. Recognizing the potential for impairment goes a long way.”
- Keep the cannabis you’re traveling with to under one ounce. Under an ounce will likely only cause you to be charged with possession, not distribution (which comes with harsher penalties). Unless it absolutely can’t be avoided, keeping your total product that’s in your car to under an ounce is a great rule of thumb.
Travel Between States
It’s important to note that carrying cannabis across a state border is illegal. The risk is higher when driving versus flying, according to Way of Leaf. Federal penalties for trafficking weed can carry a prison sentence of up to five years for bringing less than 50 kilos of cannabis across state lines. Being caught with any amount could be enough to land you in prison, with a fine of up to $250,000.
Flying with your cannabis, on the other hand, exposes you to a search from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA has issued a statement that their screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA has noted their official policy is that security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. However, if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer. State laws vary widely regarding the penalties you’d face if caught.
Cannabis legalization is a global movement, with Canada and Argentina already enjoying fully legalized cannabis. However, there are still restrictions against transportation outside of the country. Canada, for instance, has banned transporting any amount of cannabis across the border, even to countries or states where cannabis has been decriminalized.
Transporting your cannabis across international borders is a considerable risk. Border agents have the right to search every inch of your car, person, luggage, and even your social media account. Even carrying cannabis paraphernalia in some places can land you in jail or get you blocked from ever entering the country again.
One great new way to use your medical marijuana legally on your out-of-state vacation is to plan a Canna-Tourism getaway! Companies that provide accommodations for cannabis users have been popping up in recent years in recreationally-legal states like Colorado, California, and Michigan. These companies focus on providing patient-tourists the ability to try legal cannabis in a safe and accepting setting. While cannabis lounges have recently been legalized in some states like Nevada, most tourist destination cities don’t yet have legal places to use cannabis outside your home.
Travel & Leisure magazine covers cannabis-themed tours of Denver and Seattle. Many of these companies offer bus tours though their cities where riders can consume legal cannabis, whether that be edibles, concentrates, or flower. Riders have to provide their own product, though, as there lacks, in most cities, any places that both sell products and provide a place for guests to use it.
When considering planning a Canna-Tour, be sure to check on the laws of the state and the locality you are visiting. Plan to visit only dispensaries with clearly labeled products and remember that once your vacation is over, you cannot take your leftover cannabis with you. Many airports have boxes where you can surrender your unused cannabis before flying home.
When Could Travel Laws Regarding Cannabis Change?
A new bill introduced in congress in February 2021 by Senators Earl Blumenauer and Ron Wyden could relax the current laws to allow patients to use their cannabis wherever they want. The bill proposes to allow states to import and export cannabis legally. If it gets passed, the law will allow states that have legal medical cannabis programs to become involved in interstate transportation.
Looking to get your medical marijuana card but not sure where to start? Reach out to MedicateOH@gmail.com to ask questions or to get matched with a recommending physician in your area.
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Medicate OH’s Founder and Publisher is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public administration, both from Northern Kentucky University. She has more than 20 years of experience writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries, including positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop.
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