The Medical Marijuana Patient’s Guide to Traveling in the United States
Medical marijuana patients face difficulties traveling with their medicine. Unlike patients who take prescription medications and other pharmaceuticals, carrying cannabis can be challenging if you need to travel – not to mention the physical and emotional stress that you have to deal with due to certain conditions.
Both in-state and out of state travel require some reading up to prevent hiccups on the road. Due to the varying laws from one county or ordinance to another, in-state travel isn’t necessary much easier than it is out of state.
While we don’t advocate traveling with your medicine in risky situations, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- The United States interstate highways all fall under federal jurisdiction. In the event that your car is stopped by a state trooper even where cannabis is legal, it is completely in their discretion how they will choose to handle the case. In the best case scenario, your medicine could be confiscated; in the worst case scenario, you could end up arrested according to federal drug trafficking laws when you cross state lines
- Some US airports have amnesty bins, but generally speaking, the TSA doesn’t want cannabis on planes. Air travel is regulated by the TSA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Transportation, which means that all travelers are subject to federal law.
Air passengers are usually only screened to look for bombs and other items that can compromise safety. If of illegal or criminal behavior, they will refer the case to a local police officer. Anyone who is held up for cannabis in the airport is usually dealt with by allowing the state to deal with the possession based on their own laws instead of turning over the case to the feds.
- Traveling from the United States to Canada with weed is very risky and can even get you banned.
- Land that is under the jurisdiction of the feds, such as national parks, aren’t wise choices to bring your medication with you. This subjects you to federal laws as well.
- No matter where you travel to in the United States, or what mode of travel you choose, don’t even think of toking up in public. Lighting up a joint or your vape pen is strictly a no-no, unless you want to get in (serious) trouble. As a patient, if you must medicate, your best bet for being discreet while medicating is limited to: tinctures, edibles, or infused beverages.
Traveling locally shouldn’t bring about any problems for medical cannabis patients. You can bring and carry your medication when you drive or walk around your county.
When traveling to another county, be aware that some have set their own regulations surrounding the maximum number of cannabis you can have on your person. It’s your responsibility as a user and a patient to know what your state laws are, and avoid going to places where you aren’t sure what the minimum is allowed.
Most counties wouldn’t have a problem with you discreetly carrying your medicine as long as you don’t consume in public, or give them a reason to search you.
However, you should never ever travel carrying cannabis plants. Carrying your medicine is one thing; transporting it to another state or county is another. There are only a few situations that provide exceptions such as when it involves a registered caregiver, or if the patient is transferring residences.
Out Of State Travel
A handful of states have registries for valid medical marijuana patients so that you can access your medicine in another state. This regulation, referred to as reciprocity, still requires patients to register in the state you are traveling to, and then get the medicine you need from there. This makes it handy while eliminating the need to transport your bud with you.
Regardless, you should keep in mind that if you travel to a state without any medical cannabis law in place, patients can still be arrested according to local possession or drug trafficking laws even if you’re a valid and registered patient back in your home state.
Different airports also have their own ways of dealing with cannabis, so if you’re traveling from one legal state to another, read up on how certain airports treat patients. Some will require you to get rid of your stash while others might just take a look at your boarding pass to ensure that you stay legal from beginning to end of your trip. Most airports at the very least have restrictions on the amount of cannabis that people can bring with them, so again, it helps to read up.
If you’re traveling to a state where recreational marijuana is legal, you may be able to buy it from state-legal dispensaries.
Pretty much the same rules apply to medical marijuana patients who are going on road trips. Don’t cross the border to drive to a state where cannabis isn’t legal if you have pot with you.
If you’re crossing several states including one where cannabis possession is still illegal, this means you’ve violated that state’s laws when you’ve passed through. You would then be subject to the state’s criminal laws in the event that you are stopped and searched.
All 50 states in the country have DUI laws. Cannabis is considered intoxicating, just like alcohol and some prescription medications. Even if you’re confident of your skills as a stoned driver, you can still risk your life, the lives of others, and can get into serious trouble with the law if you’re caught.
Helpful things to keep in mind if you are going on a road trip:
- Always keep your cannabis out of sight. Choose a good discreet way of hiding it, or keep it in the trunk.
- Make sure that your car is in compliance and working well: check your vehicle tags, break lights, headlights, etc.
- Don’t give the law enforcement officer a reason to stop you. Just don’t drive under the influence at all! It goes without saying then that you shouldn’t be swerving, speeding, driving aggressively, or doing other things that may call attention to you and your car.
- If you do get stopped by a cop, remain respectful at all times. Give no information and assert the right you have to remain silent.
When it comes to train and bus travel, which is also monitored by the TSA, there are less invasive screenings involved in these modes of transport compared to air travel. But train and bus operators have the right to deny you a ride or may ask you to leave if they find out that you are carrying medical cannabis on your person, or if you look and act stoned. This can happen even if you have a card with you and a qualifying letter from a physician.
If you’re traveling to a weed-friendly state such as Colorado, Nevada, California, or Washington, finding hotels and accommodations that allow (even encourage) medicating is pretty easy. This does require some research on your part; while many accommodation providers do allow it, just because cannabis is legal in a state doesn’t mean that all hotels welcome card-carrying pot smokers to light up even in their hotel rooms.
Cannabis tourism is already a thriving business, yet tourism boards aren’t exactly promoting it. Generally speaking, most accommodations will have a firm “no smoking” policy, treating cannabis on the same level as tobacco.
On the other hand, some hotels prefer to stay vague about things, so check out hotel policies and guest reviews when it comes to cannabis use.
What About Weed Cafes?
Very few cannabis-friendly states have succumbed to the rush of legal cannabis lounges. Some of these include Colorado, California, and Washington.
Traveling medical marijuana patients may consider the option of stopping by a lounge or two during their visit. That’s because they are safe, legal places where you can medicate in the middle of the day. Adults of legal age can pretty much walk into a lounge, carrying their own medicine (because lounges don’t sell pot) and even rent vaporizers, pipes, or enjoy some snacks.
Of course, the legal way to enjoy weed cafes in the state you’re visiting would be to acquire it from a state-legal dispensary.
Medical marijuana patients who intend to travel need to carefully plan out entire itineraries, thinking about modes of transportation and the legality (or lack thereof) when it comes to cannabis. You also have to think about where and how you’re going to medicate; just because you’ve successfully been able to travel with your weed doesn’t mean you can smoke just about anywhere. It’s recommended to research viable discreet forms of cannabis to take with you.
If you’re going on holiday, your best bet is to visit cannabis-friendly places. Traveling abroad with pot is still very risky, though certain countries in the EU have legalized cannabis and CBD which makes access fairly easy even to foreigners.
Oh, and don’t ever leave your medical marijuana at home. It will always come in handy to have documentation from your state or physician about your recommended medicine.