Traveling with cannabis is a risky endeavor due to its illegality on a federal level, but armed with knowledge of the laws, you can travel with your medical or recreational cannabis with ease. Some states allow for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, but others can give you some stiff jail time and a hefty fine for possession. It’s up to you to know the laws and travel inconspicuously.
Flying With Cannabis
Flying in between states with cannabis is illegal, but also isn’t a top priority for airport security. Flying with cannabis is such a low priority that in 2015, the Denver International Airport only had 29 incidents where they asked passengers to throw out their cannabis. After that year, they stopped keeping records of those incidents. Similarly, 11 people were arrested at the Jacksonville Airport in Florida for cannabis possession out of 2.8 million screened in 2016.
Some airports are even cannabis-friendly. If you fly within the state of Oregon and are over the age of 21, you can fly with up to one ounce of cannabis. If you’re caught, some airports will simply ask you to throw it out or ask for a medical cannabis recommendation.
Most courts have concluded that TSA screeners at checkpoints are not law enforcement officers. They do not have the authority to arrest. They do not have the authority to seize an item. When a prohibited item is found, they give the passenger the option of disposing of the item, leaving the item, or abandoning the item.6 When they discover potential criminal activity, TSA security screeners refer the matter to other law enforcement officers who may be federal or local (including state), or both.
This understanding of the limited authority of TSA screeners underscores TSA’s policy on marijuana activity:
- 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.
Driving With Cannabis
In all states that have medical cannabis legalized, patients can carry up to one ounce of cannabis with them in a sealed container. In California, for example, you’re allowed to carry four grams of concentrated cannabis. You can’t, however, cross state lines with your cannabis, even if a bordering state has medical cannabis laws or you have a doctor’s recommendation.
Traveling with cannabis is prohibited, but still done all over the United States. Medical cannabis patients use the plant to relieve painful symptoms and can’t afford to go without it. If you arm yourself with knowledge of all the laws for every state, county, and municipality you travel to, you can make a more informed decision on traveling with cannabis.