Can I Take Marijuana on a Plane?
As travel starts to pick up again, more and more questions arise about the legality of flying with weed (in airplanes).
Travel is back. After more than a year of lockdowns, Americans are flooding into airports and onto planes. Even government officials and medical scientists have said it is safe for those who have received a vaccination (although expect to wear a mask).
That’s good news if you have the vaccine. But it also raises a question for those who use cannabis: Is it OK to take marijuana on a plane? What if you're traveling with medical marijuana, not recreational? What about traveling to other countries where cannabis in legal? Read on to find out.
Is it OK to take marijuana on a plane?
In short, the answer is, “No.” While the situation could change in the near future, for now, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. The government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug, on par with cocaine and heroin.
Seems ridiculous? Blame Richard Nixon and John Mitchell.
That doesn’t mean people don’t try to take cannabis on planes, either out of ignorance of the law or willfully trying to get around it. If you’re thinking about joining that latter group, go in with your eyes open: It’s illegal and a huge gamble. As any good attorney will tell you, getting caught with marijuana can lead to confiscation of your cannabis, the possibility of fines, and even jail time in states and cities where cannabis is not legal.
All this applies even if you are flying from one state that has legalized weed to another state that has legalized weed. When you’re at the airport and on a plane, federal law takes precedence.
One more thing: If you get caught with cannabis, try to come up with something more original than, “I forgot it was in my bag.” That’s the No. 1 excuse TSA hears for people trying to carry illegal items (guns, knives, ammunition, etc.) onto planes.
What if I fly with medical marijuana?
All the above applies to medical marijuana, as well. The Transportation Safety Administration that runs security at airports has a page dedicated to this issue. Here’s what they have to say:
“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.”
Having a TSA officer finding medical cannabis in your bag is not a great start - or ending - to your vacation.
TSA lists legal cannabis products as cannabis or cannabis-infused products with less than 0.3 percent THC, or a drug approved by the FDA. The former essentially refers to over-the-counter CBD products you can now buy coast to coast, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. The latter so far includes only one medication approved by the FDA: the epilepsy drug Epidiolex.
What about traveling to countries with legal cannabis?
Canada has made cannabis legal nationwide. Mexico decriminalized it in 2017 and is on a path to make it legal at the federal level. But if you’re flying to either place and want to use cannabis, take this advice: If it’s legal to consume it where you're going, buy it when you get there.
While the TSA has a ”we’re not looking for it, but if we find it, you’re in trouble” policy, the U.S. Customs and Border Protections takes a more aggressive posture. As travel picked up this summer, the agency issued a statement reminding people that cannabis remains illegal in the eyes of the U.S. government.
Those caught with cannabis may face seizure, fines, and/or arrest. This applies to U.S. citizens on their way out and foreign nationals on their way in.
For now, stash cannabis at home before leaving for the airport. And if you want change, vote for candidates that support federal legalization.