Traveling with CBD Oil? Here’s What You Need to Know

Ruth Lemon
Ruth Lemon - VP of Operations

Aug 23 2017 - 10 min read

Table of contents
  1. Introduction
  2. “What about CBD? It’s not psychoactive, and it helps me, and I’m carrying THC-free CBD with me.”
  3. So how have companies been capable of getting hemp-derived CBD products across to all 50 states?
  4. So, as CBD is illegal, how else are companies making hemp-derived CBD products and getting them distributed?
  5. Confused Yet? The US Government’s Stance on CBD is Confusing!
  6. Give it to me straight – are CBD oils made from hemp plants legal?
  7. What about other concerns, like sniffer dogs and the like? Would they be able to detect a hemp-based CBD oil or tincture?
  8. I’m still scared, but I need my CBD? What can I do?
  9. Are US hemp-derived hemp products any good?
  10. What about international travel?
  11. Is the CBD derived from a hemp plant any good, though?
  12. What about travelling with cannabis?
  13. To summarise …


First things first: if you’re travelling to another state and feel the temptation to take a little cannabis or cannabis-derived product with you, don’t do it. Doing so is a federal crime. Your medical marijuana card will not save you from a potential prison sentence, a fine and being sent back to where you came from. Obamacare will not save you, either, and neither will the fact that you might be travelling between two medically- or recreationally- legal states. Even the fact that you might be dying will not save you. We don’t want anyone getting busted for a bad reason, even if we wish that cannabis were legal to carry with you anywhere in the United States.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can answer the question …

“What about CBD? It’s not psychoactive, and it helps me, and I’m carrying THC-free CBD with me.”

The answer to this question is really rather quite complex (although we’ll try to simplify): it technically depends upon where your CBD is derived from, but even then your bottle of semi-legal CBD can be confiscated. In some instances, arrests have been made.

Should the product you’re carrying with you contain less than 0.3% THC and contain CBD derived from the stem of hemp plants, then it should technically be perfectly legal to carry it to any state. Again, to repeat this over again: CBD from plants that the DEA and FDA do not consider “hemp”, but rather “psychoactive” cannabis, is illegal. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) states:

“The term ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resins; but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”

However, if the CBD product you’re carrying is derived from psychoactive cannabis plants – which many are when they’re from dispensaries – then it’s illegal, even if it contains no THC in it. This is because the CBD is still being extracted from the resin of the cannabis plant, rather than the stems of non-psychoactive hemp plants. So, essentially, if the US government deems a product “marijuana” or “CBD from marijuana”, it’s illegal. The US government decides whether something is “hemp” (remember – they’re essentially the same plant) or “hemp-derived CBD”, then it’s somewhat technically legal.

Yet, all is not as simple as it seems. After all, cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabis derivative, and is therefore considered illegal by the DEA. Yes, this means the DEA has listed CBD as a Schedule I drug, even though it doesn’t have any psychoactive effect (as far as we know), is perfectly safe if well-made, and does not have any habit-forming issues!

Traveling with CBD Oil

So how have companies been capable of getting hemp-derived CBD products across to all 50 states?

The answer this time is a bit simpler: loopholes! First of all, many companies will make sure that they state that their products are made from “industrial hemp”, as per Section 7606 of the Farm Bill. This means that hemp-based products from Europe are legal as well, as they too fall under the 0.3% THC limit.

Second of all, this is what the DEA’s Final Action on cannabinoids derived from cannabis says:

“(58) Marihuana Extract–7350

“Meaning an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.”

Yes, this means that even cannabinoids themselves are illegal now, under the newly-created subparagraph 58 and code number 7350 of 21 CFR.1308.11(d).

So, as CBD is illegal, how else are companies making hemp-derived CBD products and getting them distributed?

Well, there’s several other reasons (i.e. possible loopholes) as well, other than the industrial hemp argument. Manufacturers often claim that they use parts of the plant that are not “marijuana” (i.e. stalks and seeds). Another “loophole” is that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may consider oils and tinctures containing CBD food, but not a medicine or even a dietary supplement. The exception to this is:

“… [I]f the substance was “marketed as” a dietary supplement or as a conventional food before the drug was approved or before the new drug investigations were authorized, as applicable.”

In fact, the FDA has even issued warnings to companies who have misstated how much CBD they have in their products, although some companies (such as ones from Europe) have managed to bypass this due to the fact that they were marketing their wares before the DEA and FDA legislated against CBD!

One more thing worth noting is that hemp plants are also considered “marijuana” by the DEA, but the Farm Bill states:

“Notwithstanding the Controlled Substances Act … an institution of higher education or a State department of agriculture may grow or cultivate industrial hemp if … allowed under the laws of the State.”

This means that, if the hemp plant is grown by an institute of higher education (e.g. a college/university) or a state department of agriculture, then it is “industrial hemp”. Grown outside of these legal parameters, “hemp” becomes “marijuana” or “marihuana”!

There have been changes in the law to allow for US-based hemp producers to make their own products.

Travelling with CBD across the US

Confused yet? The US Government’s stance on CBD is confusing!

We certainly are! This is made even more confusing be the fact that, in 2014, the court found that the DEA does not have the jurisdiction to regulate products made from hemp. Despite this ruling, the US government and certain websites have still caused companies like Sisters of the Valley some hassle, restricting the sale of their products wherever possible. This is not an unusual thing to happen, even for people who are growing hemp as legally as is possible!

Give it to me straight – are CBD oils made from hemp plants legal?

“It’s a grey area” is the easiest way to put it. Were you to have an overzealous person checking incoming packages or bags, they may use their discretion and destroy the hemp-containing by claiming it contains “drugs” or “prohibited substances”, then it is possible for them to arrest you for it, as CBD is a Schedule I substance.

To state once again, if you haven’t gotten the legal point yet: do not ship any CBD product that you’d need a medical marijuana card to buy. These are not derived from the stem of hemp plants, and are therefore illegal. Do not send it via post. Do not order it to your house or wherever you’re staying (only a very bad or brave company would ship it to somewhere illegal in the first instance). Do not have it with you when crossing state lines, even between two medically- and/or recreationally- legal states.

What about other concerns, like sniffer dogs and the like? Would they be able to detect a hemp-based CBD oil or tincture?

Police dogs are trained to sniff out the beta-caryophyllene and caryophyllene oxide, which is present in most cannabis strains and is the terpene that gives it that “peppery” flavor and smell. Though this terpene may be present in most if not all types of cannabis, in CBD-heavy hemp tinctures, it is present in minute amounts – amounts that most dogs would probably glance over, unless you happen to be carrying a whole bag’s worth! One or two bottles probably shouldn’t cause too much concern, though! However, it is still possible for a sniffer dog to sniff out hemp if there’s a lot of beta-caryophyllene in the product. This can occur on occasion.


I’m still scared, but I need my CBD? What can I do?

Well, as it’s possible to get hemp-derived CBD shipped to all 50 states, you could avoid carrying it over and order it, if possible and you’re able to time it correctly. There are several companies that deliver to all 50 states in the United States  Be careful with some of these companies, as the lack of regulation unfortunately means that some less-than-scrupulous companies will try and sell you dud goods.

Are US hemp-derived hemp products any good?

Sadly, on the most part, no. Sure, there may be a few that are well made, but many hemp-derived CBD products in the US use very bad quality hemp, or use extraction methods that strip away more plant matter and waxes than cannabinoids. Hemp is grown for fiber, industrial production and phytoremediation, and so so not usually contain the amount of cannabinoids usually needed for most health issues.

Hemp-derived CBD products from Europe are usually of a far higher standard due to their regulatory frameworks, but even then, similar quality control issues arise. Plus, it may not be entirely legal to deliver CBD from Europe to USA, so a USA-based company that distributes European CBD products may be a better option. With that being said, there are some CBD companies and brands doing some interesting work, like Provocan and Cibdol. Charlotte’s Web, Elixinol and Mary’ Nutritionals are others, but even some of them have had issues. The fact is this: making a plant as complex as hemp or cannabis into a standardized medication on a mass sclae is immensely difficult. Even the best get it wrong, so

What about international travel?

Different countries have different laws, and it’s not possible for us to state everywhere in the world you may be able to carry your hemp-based CBD oil with you. However, if you’re travelling to Brazil, Mexico, Canada or Europe, you shouldn’t have many problems, as long as it’s not a product from a medical marijuana dispensary, which may also contain more THC in it than expected and could potentially land you in trouble. In some countries, CBD is perfectly legal – only the THC has been legislated against!

Is the CBD derived from a hemp plant any good, though?

There are some companies that seem to have trustworthy testimonials, but we all know that scores and reviews can easily be gamed. However, we will warn you that many products out there are literally snake oil, and often don’t even have the amount of CBD they state they have in each bottle. Some of the worst ones even contain pesticides and heavy metals in them. Furthermore, they often use harsh chemical methods to extract the CBD – which is necessary as there is so little CBD in hemp plant stalks and seeds, if any at all. Also, CBD is most effective when combined with other cannabinoids and terpenes – the entourage effect – but the really good, effective (and far safer) stuff you get from products like Jayden’s Juice and Evie’s Drops is illegal to carry over to any other state in the United States. Do not do it, even if the label claims to have no THC in them. Remember: CBD is illegal as well.


What about travelling with cannabis?

Some of you will have read that some airports are what we might call “cannabis-friendly”. That is, they are not actively looking for your cannabis. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) have even said, to paraphrase, that “We’re not looking for your weed.” However, if the TSA spots something that may look like cannabis or a cannabis-containing product, they are required to notify the local authorities. Depending on the cannabis-friendliness of the authority (or whether or not their arrest targets need to be met), this can mean either a lucky escape or prison time. Also, as flying with cannabis is illegal, even if you’re going between two legal states, you can get arrested.

The most cannabis-friendly airports are thought to be:

  • LAX – Los Angeles, California
  • John Wayne Airport – Orange County, California
  • San Francisco International Airport – San Francisco, California
  • Logan International Airport – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) – Seattle, Washington

However, we would recommend not carrying cannabis on your persons, especially if you can access cannabis in another state without any other issues. Your destination point may not be entirely cannabis-friendly, either, so this is also something to be aware of. Airport security even in recreationally legal states may take a dim view of those who are attempting to carry cannabis through state lines.

To summarise …

… Once again, CBD-based products from medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal to carry over state lines, even if they have no THC in them. This is because CBD is a federally illegal substance, and the CBD was derived from a “marijuana” plant as opposed to the stalks of a hemp plant. There will also likely be lots of other terpenes present in a CBD product from a licensed dispensary, as they tend to be whole plant extracts. This means the potential of it being “sniffed out” by security dogs at airports and other state checkpoints.

Meanwhile, CBD derived from industrial hemp is not technically illegal, as long as it doesn’t claim to provide any health benefits or advertise itself as a health and wellness product. Should you fear law enforcement coming down hard on you, don’t carry it with you when crossing state lines.

So, to break it down further and simplify it (and to reiterate the point): do not travel with any CBD product from a medical marijuana dispensary, even if it claims to have no THC in it. Do not ship it or post it across state lines. Do not get on a plane with it, and do not have it in the car with you. Do not have it on the train, coach or bus with you if you’re crossing state lines using public transport.

HIf the CBD product you use requires a medical marijuana card (or even not, if it’s recreationally legal) to be bought legally in your state – no matter what form it’s in (tincture, topical, edible and so on), and claims to have no THC in it (which it probably will do, even in small amounts)  – it’s illegal. Do not carry it with you over state lines.

On the matter of CBD products, unless you have a prescription for approved medications such as Epidiolex, then it may be best to leave your CBD product at home and buy one when you get to your destination. You may not get arrested for it, and if caught are more likely to have your CBD-containing product confiscated than arrested (which is still a possibility), but is it really worth the risk?

Leafwell - Get a Medical Card
Click on the picture to start your MMJ journey and get a medical marijuana card today!





Written by
Ruth Lemon
Ruth Lemon

Ruth Lemon has worked in Cambodia and Australia, gaining experience in the non-profit sector, education and international development, and digital marketing. Ruth is helping Leafwell to scale without compromising the customer experience and seeks to create a frictionless customer journey. She now lives in the UK with her rescued Cambodian cat and believes Leafwell is improving access to and understanding of a valuable medical alternative.

Leafwell medical marijuana card

Not Sure If Cannabis Can Help You?

Let us know what you are looking to use medical cannabis for, and we will point you in the right direction.

Contact our support