It’s fair to say that this holiday season is going to be a uniquely stressful one for people all over the world, especially in the United States. Despite promising results from early COVID vaccine trials and now the start of mass vaccinations, infection numbers and deaths are at an all-time high in states all over the country. However, it seems that many Americans still plan to travel to visit their families for the first time in months to celebrate the holidays together.
As if all of that isn’t stressful enough, cannabis patients all over the country will be forced to travel with their medicine this holiday season, some for the first time ever. Although 48 states and four U.S. territories allow for some type of legal access to medical cannabis, packing up that medicine and traveling with it, especially over state lines, can still be confusing.
This article is going to provide a comprehensive guide for traveling with medical cannabis, breaking down exactly how much you can possess at one time or buy per state and, most importantly, help you stay well-medicated, protect your rights to legally use your medicine, and out of any legal trouble visiting family, friends or the in-laws this holiday season.
Make Sure To Do Your Research, Know The Rules!
While it would be great to live in a world where the massive potential of cannabis as medicine was realized, use was fully legalized and travel was as easy as throwing your medicine into your baggage alongside your socks, we’re just not there yet.
Although nearly 70 percent of American adults support cannabis legalization and cannabis legalization measures won in a landslide this past Election Day, cannabis still remains a federally illegal Schedule 1 drug. That current status means that states have had to individually pass legislation to legalize, each with their own quirks, laws, and regulations to keep in mind.
That often confusing and inconsistent patchwork of cannabis laws is oftentimes the only thing keeping a patient from doing serious time in federal prison for possession.
Since we’re on the topic of travel, let’s just use airports as a microcosm of how legally dicey it can be to travel with cannabis. Airports like Logan International in Boston and LAX in Los Angeles don’t have policies barring people from possessing cannabis on their property, while Denver International Airport forbids it. All three of those airports are in states that have fully legal medical and recreational cannabis sales, and the rules are completely different. Meanwhile. The Travel Security Administration, or the TSA for short, stops passengers from boarding flights with cannabis because it’s still federally illegal, which further complicates things. On top of that, airlines themselves like Delta and American, have banned cannabis on their flights.
In short, we’d advise against trying to fly with cannabis. However, CBD products containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are permitted on flights but for many medical marijuana card holders, their products will not comply with this strict limit.
So if flying is out of the picture, that means you’ll likely need to cross over state borders by car.
The smartest thing you can do to minimize risk while traveling by car with medical cannabis is to make yourself as invisible as possible. Most cannabis arrests start with a simple traffic stop, so you should do everything you can to prevent it. Make sure your vehicle is up to code, keep your driver’s license and registration up to date. Most importantly, make absolutely sure you have your medical cannabis card with you at all times. Possessing cannabis without it would land you in deep trouble, especially if you’ve left your home state.
On top of that, be smart about where you keep your cannabis. Just for the sake of safety, you should keep your medicine packed away securely. Ideally in something airtight, like a glass jar or sealable plastic bag. If possible, try to keep your cannabis in one container instead of spacing it out. Multiple small baggies of cannabis would raise some alarm bells for any law enforcement officer and likely lead to big trouble. If that means you need to limit the amount of cannabis you bring with you on the trip, that might just have to be the way it is.
We here at Leafwell already compiled a comprehensive list of which states offer medical cannabis reciprocity and tell you exactly how much cannabis you can possess at once while visiting that state. If you want to avoid the risk altogether and happen to be traveling to one of the states on this list, it might be a good idea to just leave your cannabis at home and restock once you complete your trip.
If you can’t leave that cannabis at home for whatever reason, it’s even more important to understand exactly how to navigate an interaction with law enforcement.
Know Your Rights!
Dealing with law enforcement officers of any type can be incredibly intimidating, especially in today’s day-and-age. The best thing you can do to ready yourself for an encounter like that is, along with making sure you’re following the rules, laws and regulations of where you are, is to know your rights as a medical cannabis patient.
First and foremost, unless you’re being forced to don’t interact with any members of law enforcement while you have cannabis on you.
Even a “friendly conversation” with a police officer could give them a reason to arrest or hassle you. Especially when you might not be 100 percent clear on local rules, laws and regulations, you shouldn’t volunteer any information to the police. The smartest thing you can do if an officer asks you questions or tries to engage you in conversation, ask, “Am I being detained or arrested?” If you are not being detained or arrested, walk away.
If you are being detained or arrested, let the officer know that you do not consent to a search and that you wish to remain silent and want a lawyer. Another thing to keep in mind if you are arrested or detained while traveling with cannabis is that silence is your friend. When do you need to speak, stick with “I am going to remain silent. I want a lawyer” and nothing else.
On top of that, make sure that you don’t consent to any searches. You have a right to refuse a search of both your person, like the stuff in your pockets, ect., or your vehicle. If they ask to search your person or belongings, say, “I do not consent to a search.” They may say, “Empty your pockets.” You are within your rights to refuse. If you do empty your pockets, it is considered consent and anything they find in your pockets may be used against you.
Travelling Safely With Medical Marijuana – a Checklist
The safest way to travel with medical marijuana is to ideally not travel with it in the first instance! However, if you must travel with medical cannabis, here’s some things you should keep with you and keep in mind as well:
- Take your doctor’s certificate or recommendation letter with you.
- Keep your medical marijuana ID card with you.
- Have your physician’s number to hand.
- Keep your lawyer’s number to hand!
If you’re going to a state with medical marijuana reciprocity, check to see if you have to sign up to your destination state’s medical marijuana program in order to use medical cannabis legally. In Arkansas, for example, visitors are required to sign up for the medical marijuana program 30 days in advance and pay a $50 nonrefundable fee.
Possession limits may differ for visitors compared to residents of the state. In Oregon, a state resident with a medical marijuana card can possess up to 24 ounces. Visitors from another state, only 1 ounce even with a valid MMJ card from another state.
If using public transport, recognize that they have their own rules and regulations. Greyhound and Amtrak, for example, do not allow for the consumption or transport of cannabis on their vehicles, even in legal states.
Keep your medication safely packed away and out-of-sight, and no garish packaging.
The Bottom Line: Staying Safe and Mediciated This Holiday Season
At the end of the day, traveling with cannabis this holiday season is all about attention to details. Make sure you do the proper research on the rules, laws and regulations surrounding cannabis in the place you’re doing. Make sure you know exactly where, when and how much cannabis you can have on you at once. And, most importantly, make sure you take the time to understand your rights as a medical cannabis patient in the state you’re going, especially when dealing with law enforcement.
That way you can stay as medicated safely and soundly this holiday season!