Ahh, summertime! A time to indulge in some de-stressing travel and vacationing… Perhaps a road trip around your state or region, or traveling by air someplace further afield.
And it should go without saying that, as far as we’re concerned, marijuana is a natural and healthy part of that de-stressing. But of course, there’s a catch: While we’re fortunate to live and work in Washington, a state with forward-thinking and sensible cannabis laws, not all of us are so lucky. If you’ve asked yourself this question: “Can I fly with medical marijuana?” – then read on for a few essential things you need to know before packing your bags.
Cannabis: The Federal Perspective
For the time being and the foreseeable future, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Therefore transporting marijuana—even medical marijuana—across state lines is a federal crime.
What’s more, current federal standards as enumerated under Section 812 of Title 21 of the U.S. Code do not distinguish between states in which cannabis is fully, partly, or not at all legal. In other words, carrying cannabis between, say, Oregon and Washington—two states with full legalization—could land you in federal prison.
Even Oregon is playing it safe when it comes to the subject of interstate “trafficking.” The passage of House Bill 4014 in 2016 bolsters federal statutes by expressly forbidding the import or export of cannabis across state lines.
In practice, this is rarely a concern. So far as we’re aware, there are no checkpoints staffed with cannabis-sniffing dogs positioned on the Interstate Bridge (as if Portland traffic weren’t already bad enough!).
While we’d love to offer guidance on how to safely and legally transport your marijuana between states, the harsh reality is that for the moment, there is simply no way to do that. Even approaching a border crossing zone with cannabis can be hazardous to your liberty. As reported on Leafly, a Canna Law Group attorney relates the story of a client transporting legal in-state weed being detained—and having his assets seized—near the crossing zone into Canada.
Given the current administration’s stance on medical marijuana, we can’t predict relief any time soon. To quote a certain wizard, “Keep it secret…keep it safe.”
Flying With Marijuana Within State Lines
If the State of Oregon sent a clear message about interstate commerce with the aforementioned Bill 4014, PDX, its busiest airport, is taking a more open stance, allowing passengers flying within the state to carry up to an ounce of cannabis.
That said, the airport administration is separate from law enforcement; the TSA officers who screen your baggage are federal agents and have the right to call law enforcement if they suspect you’re carrying illicit substances.
But again, this points to the divide between theory and practice. Yes, flying with cannabis is illegal, as is transporting it even between states in which it’s legal. In reality, there has been an extremely low number of citations (compared to total airline passengers) issued nationwide, though different states (and different airports) exercise their own policies.
Best Practices for Flying with Marijuana
Given the current legal limbo in which we find ourselves, our best advice is to avoid traveling with cannabis altogether, but if you must:
- Be sensible and discreet regarding your demeanor and the amount you carry. Use a small, travel-safe container.
- Carry your current identification and any documentation identifying you as a registered medical marijuana user.
- If you’re planning on purchasing cannabis at your destination, have cash on hand, as dispensaries are still a cash-only business.
- Don’t ever — and we mean, ever — carry more than an ounce with you. If you carry more than an ounce, authorities are far more likely to think you’re intent is distribution (rather than personal consumption).
We’d love for you to enjoy a truly stress-free and fulfilling vacation, not sweating an upcoming appearance in a court of law.