Traveling with Medical Marijuana In 2023
Traveling with medical marijuana can be downright confusing. More states have legalized marijuana, but how does that affect bringing your medicine across state lines?
When I was working at a cannabis dispensary, I’d get asked this question all the time.
While marijuana remains federally illegal, patients can feel lost trying to navigate uncharted territory. Traveling with your medication depends on multiple factors. And some are tricky to follow.
In this post, we’ll answer all your burning questions about traveling with medical marijuana.
We’ll explain the nuances of bringing your medicine throughout the USA and abroad. We’ll also cover rules for taking medical marijuana on different modes of transportation.
Read on to learn how to travel with cannabis safely and legally, so you’ll be ready for your next excursion.
Traveling With Medical Marijuana In The USA
Is it legal?
Yes. Traveling with MMJ in the United States is legal if:
- You’re traveling within a state where you have an MMJ card, and
- You are within possession limits
But, there is a caveat to these rules.
You cannot cross state lines with medical marijuana. This applies even if both states have a medical marijuana program.
Bringing it across state lines is a federal crime, and marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug. Cannabis and other drugs classed as Schedule 1 narcotics are federally illegal substances.
The government defines them as having no recognized medical uses and having a strong potential for abuse.
As such, passing state lines with medical marijuana remains illegal. Regardless of if you have an MMJ card or if the state you’re traveling to accepts your out-of-state medical marijuana card.
If you are caught transporting cannabis across states, you can be arrested.
Variations in Laws Amongst States
Always check with the state you’re visiting beforehand. It may have a reciprocity program, and you can find out what you may need to do in advance for it to apply.
Reciprocity simply means that one state will recognize an MMJ card from another state.
Some states will even allow you to purchase medical marijuana there. Certain states, like Hawaii, require you to sign up for a medical marijuana card in advance.
This is often the case in states where cannabis is illegal for recreational use.
Be aware of different possession laws amongst states. For example, Oregon allows the possession of 24 oz of medical marijuana while Virginia allows 4 oz.
Also, certain types of medical cannabis products, such as concentrates or edibles, are not available in some states either.
So if you use these specific products, know they may not be accessible to you under various medical marijuana programs.
By the way, for discretionary purposes, THC cartridges and edibles are the easiest to travel with.
Related Read: MMJ Pros & Cons, Medical Marijuana VS Recreational
Can You Take Medical Marijuana On A Plane?
The TSA is not actively searching for marijuana.
According to their website, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has special instructions if you travel with medical marijuana in carry-on and checked bags.
However, if you are caught with MMJ by the TSA, they will refer the matter to local law enforcement.
TSA Agents are required by law to report any such incidents to local and federal authorities. From there, how they handle the situation can vary depending on the state.
Bans of Medical Marijuana on Specific Airlines
On the other hand, some airlines explicitly ban marijuana altogether.
Being a medical cannabis patient doesn’t matter. Popular airlines like American Airlines and Alaska Airlines strictly prohibit bringing marijuana onboard the aircraft.
Although the Transportation Security Administration does not ban cannabis outright, airline restrictions will supersede that.
In sum, taking cannabis on a plane is risky. Even if you have a medical marijuana card, traveling with it by plane can still have complications.
Before you fly, carefully assess the risks and determine if it’s worth it for you.
MMJ On Other Forms Of Transport
Rules for traveling with medical marijuanas on other forms of transport depend on the mode of transport. Each type of transport comes with its own risks.
Forms of public transportation have their own regulations you’ll need to follow. Check with your chosen mode of transit for specific guidelines on cannabis.
Buses and Trams
Each company has distinct rules regarding medical marijuana. For example, some do not allow bringing or using cannabis onto their buses.
Popular public bus systems like Greyhound and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) strictly prohibit the use and transport of MMJ. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling through states where medical marijuana is legal.
Subways and Trains
If you are traveling by subway or train, you will need to follow specific regulations for each agency.
For instance, all Amtrak trains, stations, and buses have a no-smoking policy.
This policy states that the transport and use of cannabis is banned, even in places where recreational or medical marijuana is legal. Virtually all subways and trains prohibit smoking of any kind.
Traveling with marijuana overwaters is murky.
Once you cross certain waters, you must abide by local jurisdictions. Some waters are also federally controlled, which means you’re also subject to federal regulations.
So if you’re on a boat, you may not even realize you’re entering a federal zone.
Examples of federally controlled waters include but are not limited to:
- Coastal Waters
- The Great Lakes
- Territorial Seas
- Any body of water connected to one of the three above (up until the body of water is smaller than 2 miles wide).
Using your own vehicle is often the best route for traveling with medical weed. However, you should always check with the local regulations on cannabis.
Verify the state’s possession limits to avoid legal trouble and be discrete. Using rideshare or renting a vehicle is a possible gray area.
Remember to check with the state you’re in for laws governing marijuana. Never use cannabis when operating a motor vehicle.
Traveling Abroad with Medical Marijuana
Traveling with cannabis internationally is illegal!
This still applies even if you’re traveling to a place where marijuana is legal.
Certain countries do not recognize medical marijuana, and It is ruled an illegal substance in those places.
While other countries impose extremely harsh laws regarding the possession of cannabis, it will not matter if you have a medical marijuana card.
These countries include but is not limited to:
- People’s Republic of China
For a complete list of countries that ban cannabis use and cultivation, check out World Population Review’s report.
The bottom line: do not travel with any type of medical marijuana abroad. It is not worth the risks or ramifications.
How to Store Medical Marijuana For Travel
Ideally, keep your medical cannabis in its original packaging. This way, it’s easy to indicate that it is a prescription.
Similar to traveling with any kind of prescription, the medication should be stored in its designated container.
Also, keep your medical marijuana ID card with you at all times to prove you’re an MMJ patient.
If you don’t have the original packaging, remember cannabis degrades upon exposure to:
- UV light
To avoid marijuana degradation, keeping it in an airtight UV reflecting jar, vacuum-sealed is ideal.
What To Do Before Traveling With Medical Marijuana
There are steps you can take to make transporting medical marijuana easier. Before embarking on your trip, use the list below to cover all bases:
MMJ Travel Checklist
- Is your medical cannabis card valid and not set to expire in the next 30 days?
- Have you packed your medical marijuana prescription? Or do you have access to it in your email? (Tip: Take a photo of your MMJ card on your phone just in case you misplace it.)
- Have you checked if the state you’re traveling to has medical marijuana reciprocity?
- Is your medical marijuana stored in its original packaging?
- Are you taking medical marijuana products that are legal in the state you’re visiting?
- Have you checked with public transportation you plan on using for their rules on medical marijuana?
- Is your route free of federal zones?
Wrapping Up Travel With MMJ
Traveling with medical marijuana can be confusing.
From navigating state laws to federal laws, finding out how to transport cannabis legally is complex.
To be safe, always check with each state you’re going to for the most up-to-date regulations.
Knowing the laws, carrying your MMJ card, and practicing discretion can make your trip a little easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I pack my medical marijuana in a carry on or checked bag?
The TSA indicates on their website that you can bring medical marijuana in carry-ons and checked bags under special instructions.
However, the special instructions are not specified. They do warn that cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC is federally illegal.
Though TSA agents are not actively searching for marijuana, they must remit the matter to authorities.
Can I bring CBD to the airport?
Yes. According to federal laws, you can bring CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC or those that are approved by the FDA.
CBD cannabis products not fitting this description are illegal at the federal level. Having a medical marijuana card will not make a difference. Thus you are not permitted to bring them to the airport.
Can I legally fly with medical marijuana?
The short answer is no. When you travel by air in the US, it is considered federal territory. Federal regulations supersede state laws.
A medical marijuana card is not recognized federally. So if you are caught flying with marijuana, you are violating federal rules regardless if you have an MMJ card.
What is the safest way to travel with medical cannabis?
With your MMJ card! The best way is always to travel legally.
Check the regulations for the medical marijuana program in the state you’re visiting before you go.
Just like your ID, keep your medical cannabis card with you wherever you travel to. Abiding by local jurisdiction is the safest way to go.
Where is cannabis legal for recreational adult-use?
Laws regarding marijuana are constantly changing.
Currently, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 territories allow recreational cannabis for adult use.
You can stay up to date with the latest laws concerning marijuana by checking out the National Conference for State Legislatures’ website.