Can you travel with cannabis in the United States of America? While states like Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington may have legalized it, cannabis is still federally prohibited.
So cannabis may be legal in some states. But it is still a controlled substance, according to Washington D.C.
(Even though the residents living in the District of Columbia voted to legalize it in 2015, Congress has denied them access to retail, and so a robust grey market has popped up).
It may be legal to possess and use cannabis within the borders of a legal state, but it is illegal to transport cannabis across state lines.
What About Flying?
So you cannot drive from Colorado to Washington with legal cannabis. But what about if you fly on a direct flight? You’d be taking off from one legal state and landing in another. So what’s the issue?
Unfortunately, even a direct flight from Colorado to Washington counts as crossing state lines. Airports and airlines are federally regulated. Ergo, they’re subject to federal laws.
Like crossing the border to Canada from a legal state, you will face penalties if you have cannabis. The feds consider borders their jurisdiction.
But what if – for example – you fly within Colorado?
Or any other legal state? Therefore, you’re not crossing any state lines.
Travelling with cannabis within Colorado (i.e. not crossing state lines) is valid and legal. When it comes to air travel, a lot will depend on the kind of flying you’ll be doing. And where you’ll be doing it.
For example, LAX has said they won’t go after people with less than an ounce.
However, most airports are federal property. And like the border, federal law will overrule state law, even when it’s unconstitutional.
You can theoretically travel by air within the United States with cannabis. If it’s a small chartered, private plane, and you know the pilot, odds are, there won’t be anyone sniffing around your bags.
But that’s a rare case. And not technically legal. In most cases, you’ll get the Chicago treatment.
O’Hare International Airport has “pot amnesty” boxes by their security checkpoints. The idea is that travellers who may have arrived with legal cannabis products and didn’t realize they couldn’t fly with them have a safe space to trash their goods.
The city of Chicago owns the boxes, and the police maintain them.
But as far as getting caught by security, such as the TSA, your experience may vary. The TSA website states, “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs.”
Travel with Cannabis in the United States – Different Rules Between States
Further complicating travel with cannabis in the United States is all the different rules between the legal states.
For example, in California, you can carry up to an ounce of cannabis. In Colorado, it’s two ounces. In Maine, it’s three ounces.
And these rules are subject to change. However, since crossing state lines with cannabis is considered illegal, you technically shouldn’t have to worry about how much cannabis you have on you. Any amount is too much, according to the authorities.
Wait – is it really illegal to drive from New York to New Jersey with cannabis?
Yes. If you work in NYC, pick up some weed for the night, and then drive over the George Washington Bridge or through the Lincoln Tunnel to return to your New Jersey home, you’ve committed a federal offense.
Transporting cannabis across state lines is considered a federal offense because cannabis is still a controlled substance under federal law.
But doesn’t this violate states’ rights?
Yes, but thanks to that “Commerce Clause,” Washington D.C. has every opportunity to undermine the state sovereignty.
What About Medical Cannabis or CBD?
Can You Travel with Cannabis in the United States if it’s medical or legal CBD? Technically yes, but there are some things to consider.
So long as your CBD product contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, it is legal to fly with. This is because CBD is legal federally, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill.
(If your CBD is in liquid form, you’ll still be bound by whatever carry-on policy the airline or TSA has at the moment).
What about medical cannabis?
This area is a little trickier since there is no official federal government medical cannabis program. Thus, no official “medical cannabis I.D.” the TSA can verify.
Generally, you can’t travel on a domestic flight with medical cannabis. Since even medical cannabis is considered a controlled substance by the U.S. feds.
Even if you’re confident a TSA agent won’t confiscate your medical cannabis, some airlines, like American Airlines, have banned all cannabis, including medical cannabis, from flights.
Can You Travel with Cannabis in the United States?
Short answer, no. You can drive from spot to spot within a legal state. And you may be able to travel with cannabis within the United States on a private chartered plane. But in general, you do not want to cross state lines with cannabis. Even if you’re going from one legal state to another.