Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
- Can You Travel with Medical Marijuana in the United States?
- Traveling Internationally with Medical Marijuana
- How to Store Medical Marijuana While Traveling
- What to Do If You’re Detained but Have a Medical Marijuana Card
- Checklist for Traveling with Medical Marijuana
- The Bottom Line on Traveling with Medical Marijuana
Crossing state lines with medical marijuana can be tricky. While medical marijuana is now legal in many states, the plant remains illegal at the federal level. This lack of federal regulation can spell trouble when you travel, especially through high-security airports.
Here we provide your comprehensive guide for traveling with medical cannabis, explaining the unique rules for different forms of transportation. Read on to protect your rights to legally use your cannabis medicine while visiting family and friends this holiday season and all year round. However, please note that no information in this blog should be considered legal advice. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you have a specific question about traveling with marijuana.
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Can You Travel with Medical Marijuana in the United States?
Traveling within the United States with medical marijuana is legal if a reciprocity program exists. States with medical marijuana card reciprocity recognize and adhere to each other’s laws, so your MMJ card will be valid in a reciprocal state. However, the list of states with reciprocity is small, and most states, including Florida and New York, do not recognize out-of-state medical cards.
If you’re going to a state with medical marijuana reciprocity, check to see if you must sign up for your destination state’s medical marijuana program to use medical cannabis legally. In Arkansas, for example, visitors must sign up for the medical marijuana program thirty days in advance and pay a $50 nonrefundable fee.
Possession limits may also 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 other states can possess only one ounce, even with a valid MMJ card.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued more stringent security requirements since the turn of the century and the September 11th tragedy. But heavy restrictions on cannabis date back to President Richard Nixon’s administration and the beginning of the War on Drugs. In a nutshell: flying with cannabis is illegal.
At the same time, TSA agents do not actively search for medical marijuana or other drugs in your baggage. However, if the TSA finds anything resembling a federally illegal substance in your bags, they are required to report the finding to local law enforcement.
But the TSA is not the only organization you have to answer to when you fly. Some major airlines like American Airlines have banned all marijuana (including medical use) from flights. In accordance with such regulations, you are not permitted to travel with even one gram of medically prescribed cannabis.
The bottom line is that flying with medical marijuana poses numerous legal risks. Leave your MMJ at home the next time you fly, or find an alternate form of transportation.
Traveling in your own personal vehicle with medical marijuana is the safest way to go. But if you’re renting a car or driving someone else’s vehicle, there may be some gray areas, especially if you are traveling through states with unfavorable medical marijuana laws. Furthermore, do not use marijuana while operating a vehicle and obey all traffic laws to reduce the likelihood of the police pulling you over.
Trains and Buses
If using public transport, recognize that trains and busses 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.
Subways and Commuter Trains
You definitely cannot smoke weed on subways and commuter trains. The U.S.’s largest transportation hub, the MTA in New York, banned all smoking in 1988. As for traveling with your medical marijuana, subways and commuter trains will have their own rules and regulations to which you must adhere.
Boats and Ferries
The United States Coast Guard wants you to leave your weed at home. When you travel through waterways, you may be unaware that you have left one jurisdiction and entered another. If the place you sail through has outlawed marijuana, then you are subject to those laws.
Traveling Internationally with Medical Marijuana
Many countries continue to crack down on drug offenders, including medical marijuana users, depending on where you go. Bali, Indonesia, has one of the harshest penal systems in the world for people caught with marijuana. Making no distinction between medical marijuana and recreational cannabis, the government of Bali sentences people caught with weed to a minimum of four years in prison.
Other Asian nations, including China, impose similar harsh penalties on people who bring marijuana across their borders. Even in countries where medical marijuana is legal, like the Netherlands, there is a fine line between medical and recreational use, with the latter decriminalized but not legal. If you’re traveling in Holland with more than five grams of cannabis and lose your MMJ card, you may be penalized.
The best advice for someone who wants to travel internationally with medical marijuana? Don’t do it.
How to Store Medical Marijuana While Traveling
Storing medical marijuana while you travel is simple: keep it in the original packaging. Traveling with any unlabeled prescription bottle can lead to legal trouble. Discreetly store your medical marijuana in a zippered compartment in your luggage alongside your MMJ card and any corresponding paperwork.
What to Do If You’re Detained but Have a Medical Marijuana Card
First, know that you have legal rights and try not to panic. Be respectful and present your medical marijuana card and any accompanying documents. If the issue persists, get in touch with an attorney.
Checklist for Traveling with Medical Marijuana
The safest way to travel with medical marijuana is to avoid it in the first place. However, if you must travel with medical cannabis, here are some important points to keep in mind:
- First, be sure that your MMJ card has not expired or is near expiring (within 30 days).
- Take your doctor’s certificate or recommendation letter with you.
- Keep your medical marijuana ID card with you at all times.
- Make a copy of your medical marijuana card and store it in a travel safe.
- Leave another copy of your medical marijuana card with a trusted loved one at home.
- Keep your medical marijuana (and all prescription medications) in the original packaging.
- Have your physician’s phone number and other contact info handy.
- Keep a lawyer on speed dial, just in case.
The Bottom Line on Traveling with Medical Marijuana
Traveling with medical marijuana is complicated. Keep yourself informed of the most up-to-date state and federal laws to ensure that transporting medical marijuana to your destination is legal.
Experience the benefits of medical marijuana safely and legally in your home state by applying for your MMJ card with Leafwell. Our doctors are here to guide you each step of the way and consult with you online.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Will I get arrested if I bring medical marijuana to the airport?
Do not fly with cannabis, as it is illegal to do so. However, hemp-derived CBD products containing no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are permitted on flights.
What is the best way to travel with medical marijuana?
The best way to travel with medical marijuana? Legally! Follow the law wherever you go. Most importantly, make absolutely sure you have your medical cannabis card with you at all times. Possessing cannabis without a card could land you in deep trouble, especially if you’ve left your home state.
Can I pack medical marijuana in checked luggage?
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, so packing any MMJ in your luggage is not advisable. TSA agents do not directly search for drugs, but they will hold you accountable if they find anything suspicious or illegal in your bags.