Navigating medical marijuana (MMJ) travel laws is incredibly confusing with the current global stance on cannabis. In the U. S., what about patients who want to travel to other countries? Often there isn't much information to offer until someone else makes a mistake and is arrested. To avoid putting yourself in danger, it's important to pre-emptively research the cannabis laws of the place you would like to travel to.
Even if you're going to a cannabis-friendly state, such as Florida, or a recreational state like Colorado or California, learn about medical use laws to local laws, as even county laws vary significantly. At the federal level, MMJ patients are technically violating federal law no matter where they travel and are at risk of committing a serious crime crossing state lines with cannabis, since it is still a Schedule I controlled substance. When it comes to flying, you'll need to research the rules of each individual airline and airport, as well as the rules set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). While TSA agents must inform a law enforcement officer of any discovery of illegal substances during their routine control procedures, they allow certain medications, such as epidiolex and hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products.
Some airports also offer “amnesty boxes” for passengers to discreetly dispose of their unapproved cannabis products. Cannabis flower and other cannabis-infused products, including some CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC, are still illegal under federal law, with the exception of products approved by the FDA. The TSA is a federal agency, so it must comply with federal laws, which do not recognize the legality of cannabis in any way. However, it is important to note that TSA security officers focus exclusively on safety and potential threats to aviation or passengers and do not intentionally search for cannabis or other drugs during security checks.
In short, it's still illegal to fly with cannabis, even if you have documentation showing that you're a medical marijuana patient, but TSA agents don't perform specific cannabis screening tests. The TSA website states that medical cannabis can be carried in a checked suitcase or a carry-on suitcase, but notes that this policy involves “special instructions”. The agency adds that “the final decision is with the TSA official as to whether an item can pass through the checkpoint”. Ultimately, the decision to travel with your medication or not is yours.
The same goes for land travel. Some train, bus and rideshare companies offer specific rules for traveling with cannabis. Unfortunately, most of them will recommend that you don't bring it at all. The bottom line is that if you don't want to have any problems, we strongly recommend that you completely avoid driving with cannabis.
If you decide to drive with medical cannabis, you should avoid drawing attention to yourself and never drive while on medication or actively medicate yourself while driving. In some states, if an officer smells cannabis, he has probable reasons to make a search. That said, don't travel with open containers or a blatant exposure; learn how to properly store your cannabis before traveling anywhere. It is important to note that you should completely avoid using cannabis anywhere near school zones or day care centers; federal law prohibits people from carrying cannabis within 1,000 feet of these facilities and those who do so will face additional penalties.
If you are traveling to a foreign country, please be aware of the laws on cannabis; every country has its own policy and challenging it can have serious consequences. Take for example the story of a woman from New York who traveled to Russia with 19 grams of her cannabis drug; as a medical marijuana patient in New York State she was allowed to take her medication under the state program but in Russia none of these rules apply - it's a completely different country with a very different set of rules. Upon discovering cannabis in her luggage she was quickly arrested and forced to spend more than a month behind bars - although she ended up being discharged not all situations like this end thankfully so it is best to completely avoid traveling with medical marijuana internationally because laws are foreign to the U. S.
We have seen that law enforcement is largely uninformed about medical cannabis in general and will continue to pursue people based on their own assumptions regardless of state laws; if you decide to venture into cannabis know your rights - if you are arrested there are laws that allow you to refuse consent to a police search - if you consent any evidence found may be admitted in court but if you refuse and the search is considered illegal any evidence is immediately inadmissible - keep in mind that you should never physically object - if they continue reiterate that you are not giving your consent loud enough for witnesses to hear you - always carry proof of your status as an MMJ patient and be prepared to show it in case you are charged with a cannabis-related crime. For cannabis to be taken seriously we need to be sensible about it - this means consuming responsibly and discreetly and at the same time making a conscientious effort to know all relevant laws (local national and global) - don't end up in jail for using marijuana because you forgot to investigate - if you can't live without your medication make sure you know all applicable laws before traveling.