traveling with cannabis

Traveling With Cannabis: Know Before You Go

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By Dan Larkin

Summer means vacation time for many. If your vacation plans include traveling with cannabis, there are a few things to consider.

Table of Contents

Federal laws regarding traveling with cannabis

First things first

Let’s start by acknowledging the elephant in the room. Cannabis possession and use are still federally illegal. Although it seems like every day we’re closer to that changing, it hasn’t happened yet. In fact, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 refers to drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. 

Read more Cannabis In Real Life articles about Schedule 1

I know, I know, that’s so absurd as to be laughable, but trust me, it’s no laughing matter if federal agents arrest you for cannabis possession. So, if you’re traveling with cannabis this summer and crossing a state or federal border, or getting on an airplane, this is just something you need to accept; you’re technically in violation of federal law. (Note: Let’s all keep working on changing that, Okay?)

traveling with cannabis federal government schedule 1
US federal laws make traveling with cannabis illegal

A disclaimer

Now, that you are aware of federal law, it’s also important to put it in perspective. But first, a disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV or the internet. At CannabisIRL, we’re just trying to give you information about cannabis in real life so you can learn about, and enjoy cannabis and cannabis-related products. So, having said that, don’t worry a lot if you’re packing a couple of joints, a vape pen, or maybe a few gummi bears with you as you head to the cabin, to visit your in-laws, or heading to the beach. The federal government has bigger fish to fry and your traveling with cannabis isn’t their top concern.

State laws regarding traveling with cannabis

Adult use of cannabis is legal on a state level in 10 states and the District of Colombia. Medical use is legal in 33 states and growing. So, traveling with cannabis is becoming a part of life for potentially, millions of Americans, both young and old.

Here’s the tricky part about navigating state laws. Every state is different. Their legislators and their voters have helped shape their laws and they range from restrictive to generous when it comes to traveling with cannabis, or CBD.

image courtesy of weedmaps

For a state by state information guide check out this weedmaps article.

Medical use travelers

To be on the safe side, if you’re a medical cannabis user, make sure you always carry documentation of your medical patient status. If your child or someone in your care is a registered medical patient, make sure you have that paperwork handy as well. It can often make the difference between a quick question or two from law enforcement and a lengthy vacation-ruining interrogation. It also doesn’t hurt to leave a copy of that documentation with your emergency contact back home.

Adult use travelers

As far as adult use (recreational) goes, traveling with cannabis can be a tricky issue. Obviously, if you’re traveling in a state where it’s illegal, you are traveling at your own risk. If you are traveling in a state where it’s legal, just be sure to bone up on their particular laws regarding amounts and storage of it. For instance, in California, you can travel with cannabis if you are an adult 21+ but it has to be in a sealed container. You know, like open bottle laws for alcohol.

If you’re traveling by car between two or more states where adult use is legal (think California to Oregon to Washington, for instance) you aren’t going to be stopped at the border and there isn’t much to be concerned about but do double-check their individual laws as they are evolving.

It should go without saying but here it goes anyway, don’t drive if you’re impaired. Just don’t. I know that you’re probably thinking that even impaired on cannabis you’re still a great driver, albeit a slow one, but enjoy your high and your vacation by chilling out somewhere until you can handle it, or better yet, have a designated driver.

Read more Cannabis In Real Life articles regarding state laws.

Mode of transportation

Your particular travel plans might be by car, but they might include air travel, bus, boat, or possibly even travel by rail. Traveling with cannabis by those forms of transportation take us back to the caveat that cannabis is illegal federally. That’s because of the fact that air travel, for instance, falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. So, even if you’re catching a flight from Denver to Colorado Springs, or from San Francisco to L.A., you’re dealing with TSA agents and federal regulations.

traveling with cannabis by air
Traveling with cannabis by air can be tricky.

The good news here is that the TSA has basically said they aren’t going to be rifling through your carry-ons, looking for a joint, CBD bottle, or your gummi bears. They are too busy looking for explosives and guns and things that could actually harm travelers.

That being said, if they do find your cannabis they do need to report it to local authorities. What the local authorities would do is dependent on local laws. But, if it’s a small amount in a state where it’s legal, they may make you throw it away. Again, if you are a medical patient, you should have your documentation handy.

Read the TSA’s statement here.

Trains, buses, and boats

Traveling with cannabis by rail, boat or bus is likely prohibited by the carrier. For instance, Amtrak prohibits cannabis on their trains even if you’re in a legal state. That goes for medical as well as adult use. So, make note.

Greyhound and most other major bus lines have similar policies in place so check with them beofre you book your travel. No one wants to get kicked off a bus in the middle of Nebraska. (Sorry, Nebraska!)

Cruise ships aren’t a place to get caught smoking cannabis either. In fact, most all cruise ship lines follow US federal laws and some, like Carnival, could actually fine you $500 and/or boot you off the ship. (I know, there are worse things than being stranded in say, Cabos San Lucas, but still.) So, again, be careful. Read Carnival’s policy here.


In conclusion, Cannabis In Real Life wants you to enjoy your vacation and to enjoy cannabis. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive and, for that matter, from what I’ve heard (wink, wink) they actually go well together. But traveling with cannabis has its risks and you need to be prepared. That means being informed.

Do your research. Use the internet. Google is your friend. But, check your sources. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information pertaining to where and how you’ll be traveling. Remember to be respectful of your fellow travelers, law enforcement, and transportation employees. The Golden Rule will always serve you well when traveling. Have fun and safe travels!

traveling with cannabis happy
Safe travels!

More Cannabis In Real Life articles on traveling with cannabis here.

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