It’s 2022, and nearly every state in the union has legalized some form of cannabis. Hemp and hemp-derived CBD is now legal, and a whopping 18 states have recreational marijuana. If you’re lucky enough to live in a state like Washington or Colorado where weed’s been legal for almost a whole decade, it’s easy to forget that other parts of the country still consider the plant a dangerous, illicit drug, and getting caught with pot could lead to serious legal repercussions.
But does that mean for travel? Can you take weed on an airplane, and what happens if you get caught with weed you bought legally in a state where marijuana is illegal? Keep reading to find out the answer to these questions and more!
Weed Laws When Traveling Domestically
Navigating the law when traveling with marijuana can get quite complicated. What’s totally legal in one state may lead to an arrest just a few hundred miles east. If you’re planning on taking some bud with you on your next road trip, you’ll want to understand how exactly cannabis laws in this country work.
As of 2022, 18 states have legalized recreational cannabis, and 38 states have implemented medical marijuana programs.However, the relationship between state and federal laws adds a layer of complication.
Map Showing Degrees of Legalization Each State Currently Has
While many states have embraced cannabis, marijuana remains federally illegal. In 2013, one year after Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana, the Justice Department issued the Cole Memorandum. In it, the federal government made clear its intention to keep cannabis federally illegal but not to prosecute cannabis cultivators, sellers, and users operating inside the borders of states with legal marijuana programs. Five years later, then-Attorney General and vocal prohibition advocate Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, leaving the future of recreational cannabis to potentially go up in smoke.
Fortunately, the Justice Department has continued to refuse to prosecute any marijuana cases where the defendant was acting in accordance with state laws. In practical effect, this precedent means the only law enforcement agency likely to charge you with simple possession will be state-run. So, if you’re traveling from one state with recreational marijuana to example (for example, driving the PCH up from San Francisco up to Portland Oregon), you run very little risk of running afoul of the law. That being said, if police suspect you of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of Marijuana, you may be charged with a DUI. Driving a state without any legal marijuana laws is a different story. Say your coast-to-coast road trip passes through Alabama. If you get caught with cannabis by Alabama state police, they won’t care if you originally purchased that cannabis legally, as it is illegal to possess in their state.
Weed Laws When Traveling Internationally
Domestic travel is one thing, but taking cannabis with you to another country could lead to serious legal problems. If you get caught crossing the border with cannabis, you may be tried for drug smuggling or trafficking. This is even the case with a country like Canada, where cannabis has been federally legalized.
Can You Fly With Weed?
But what about air travel? Can you get on plane with cannabis, and if so how much weed can you fly with? According to the TSA’s website: “TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
Ultimately, the consequences of getting caught with weed at the airport will heavily depend on if the marijuana is discovered in a state where cannabis is currently legal. So, say you’re coming back from Seattle, and TSA finds cannabis on your person, they would report it to Washington State Police, who would be extremely unlikely to charge you with anything. However, if you’re leaving DFW and TSA finds your marijuana, Texas State Police may not be so lenient, and you may be charged with possession. If you decide to risk it and bring weed with you on the plane, flying with weed in checked bags is more dangerous than taking it along in your carry-on since checked baggage is subject to random searches. Large amounts of cannabis are more likely to land you in trouble than small amounts, and taking edibles on a plane is considered less risky than flower.
What About CBD?
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and hemp-derived CBD is now federally legal. As a result, you’re safe to take CBD products with you anywhere in the country.The federal government considers hemp to be any cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% THC per dry weight, so just make sure your CBD products don’t also have a significant amount of THC.
It’s perfectly fine to take CBD on a plane so long as your CBD product doesn’t violate any other of TSA’s rules and regulations. So, for example, your CBD tincture can be more than 3 ounces.
Do you have any stories about traveling with cannabis? Let us know on Twitter!