Is it legal to travel with medical marijuana?
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Cannabis for medical uses is becoming legal in more and more places. However, even though this might now be a regular feature in home medical cabinets, cannabis is still not like other drugs. Unlike other drugs of course, there are still things to remember about using it. One of the most important things to remember? You cannot travel with this drug easily.
If planning to cross state lines (in the U.S.) or internationally, you only have one option. Leave your cannabis at home. Otherwise, look forward to at minimum, travel delays and hassles. Worst case, you can end up in jail.
Yes, Montel Williams (the American talk show celebrity) got through German customs in Frankfurt safely last summer. However, he was still delayed until he could prove his stash was medical. This is not something the average traveller wants to deal with or face. Plus most people are not celebrities. Expect the authorities to be far less polite if not deferential if you are not a famous face.
HOW DO I TRAVEL AS CANNABIS USER?
Sadly, still, the best advice about traveling with cannabis is, don’t. It is still a major hassle if something goes wrong. This is one of the biggest reasons that cannabis tourism – even medical tourism – has so far not taken off.
When traveling locally, the best thing to do is plan. The best thing of all of course is not to travel with your stash. If you are a medical user, document that before you go. Take a doctor’s note with you if possible.
When traveling by car, make sure your cannabis is safely secured in the back. Deceptions and secure packaging are also recommended if traveling on more public transportation. This starts with trains or busses. However it also includes travel by boat.
If you can take pills or oil rather than bud, try to do this. It looks and smells far less innocuous. Remember you do not want to smell like the drug. Your baggage may also be sniffed by dogs, if you are unlucky. Consider whether getting caught is worth the hassle (at minimum).
If not traveling locally, you will need to research your destination. The best solution is to plan to secure cannabis at your destination. Remember, in the United States, there are many traps you need to think about. Any travel you do on an interstate is technically also “federal property.” As such this presents as much of an issue, in theory at least, is going to an airport with your stash. If a state trooper busts you on the interstate for pot possession, you are also facing federal complications.
Never, ever, travel with plants.
TRAVELLING WITHIN THE US
In-county travel is the only thing that is really safe. However, if living in a post-reform state, state-wide travel is also usually ok. You need to be very aware of the minimum and maximum quality regulations in every county. In California, for example, every county is required to allow the state minimum. That is not true elsewhere.
Do not, in any circumstances, cross state lines. This is a federal offense.
If you are a medical patient traveling within the U.S., also beware. Some states have what is known as medical reciprocity. This means you may participate in the medical programs of your destination state.
Nevada became the first state in the country to allow the same. You must address this issue before you go.
Never, ever take cannabis on any airplane flight. This is true for even domestic flights. This is the case even if you are a registered state medical user. Why? It is a federal crime. The fine and penalties are steep. Even for a first offense, it is possible to receive a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
TRAVELING WITHIN THE EUROPEAN UNION
Traveling in Europe is a different proposition. You need to be careful here, however you are not going to end up in jail for being caught with a joint. Medical users who travel here, however, need to be aware of local procedures. In Europe, cannabis is considered a medical grade narcotic covered under the same laws that cover opioids. If traveling with your prescription from one country to another, follow the law.
There are also two different procedures depending on where you are traveling. Cross border travel between 'Schengen states' requires a different form than traveling between those who are not in the treaty.
- Schengen declaration for traveling within Schengen states (valid for 30 days)
- Medical document in English for traveling outside Schengen states. (valid for 1 year)
The Schengen states are:
- Czech Republic
The best thing? Check with your doctor. Research what options are available locally. Plan accordingly.
There are also other options, obviously. In the Netherlands, it is easy to buy weed without a prescription. In Spain, local clubs are sometimes willing to provide memberships, particularly for medical users and longer term visitors. Medical cannabis users groups also post advise and help online. Get in touch with these groups and plan your safest strategy and options.
WHAT DO I DO IF NONE OF THESE OPTIONS WORK?
If you are a medical user and you absolutely have to travel across state or international lines with your medication (i.e. you cannot get any at your destination), there is another option. The vast majority of issues are caused by taking plant materials with you.
Talk to your doctor and obtain a prescription of dronabinol. This is now a Schedule III drug everywhere and as such, is legal to take with you. This should tide you over in a pinch.
It is not easy.
If truly frustrated about this issue, consider donating your time to a reform group. Cannabis reform is still a “thing.” Your time and energy can make a difference.
This cannot be stressed enough. If you can avoid traveling with cannabis, do so. There is still enough stigma around this issue, not to mention real laws, that it is better to be safe than sorry.
However, the good news is that there are beginning to be options available for people who are caught out in a pinch.