It is incredibly confusing trying to navigate this world with the current global stance on cannabis. In the US, some states are ok with you bringing your medicine with you as long as you can prove your patient status while other states are staunchly against it altogether. What about medical marijuana patients that want to travel to other countries? There’s often not much insight to be offered until someone else makes a mistake and gets arrested.
Recently, a NY woman traveled to Russia with 19 grams (¾ oz) of her cannabis medicine. She’s a medical marijuana patient in the state of New York and is permitted to her medicine under the state’s program. However, in Russia, none of these rules apply. It’s a completely different country with a very different set of rules. Upon discovery of the cannabis her luggage, she was swiftly arrested and is still sitting in jail at this time awaiting trial in a foreign country. In Russia, similar charges carry a maximum of 3 years in prison.
Check the Rules BEFORE You Travel
First, be aware that it is illegal for cannabis products to leave the jurisdiction in which they were purchased. To avoid putting yourself in jeopardy, do some preemptive research on the cannabis laws in the location you’d like to travel to. Because laws fluctuate and seem to change all the time, be absolutely sure that any information you read is current and up to date. Even if you go to a cannabis-friendly state, become informed of the laws all the way down to the county because even county laws vary significantly. Since cannabis is still federally illegal in the US, medical marijuana patients are technically breaking federal law no matter where they go and risk catching a felony for transporting cannabis across state lines. Consider which states offer reciprocity for MMJ patients and know them like the back of your hand. And if you are going to a foreign country, we implore you to learn its laws surrounding cannabis.
When it comes to flying, you will have to research what the regulations are for each individual airline and airport, as well as the rules for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). While TSA is focused on finding threats, they will allow certain medications such as Epidiolex and hemp-based CBD. However, they have to report any discoveries of illegal substances to the authorities. Some airports provide ‘amnesty boxes’ for passengers to discreetly dispose of their cannabis products.
The same goes for ground travel as well. Some trains, buses, and rideshare companies provide specific rules for traveling with cannabis. Unfortunately, most of them will advise you to not bring it at all. The bottom line is that if you don’t want to run into any problems, it’s heavily encouraged that you just avoid traveling with cannabis altogether.
Know Your Rights and Use Common Sense
We’ve seen that law enforcement is largely uninformed about medical cannabis as a whole and will still pursue people based on their own assumptions regardless of the state laws. Should you decide to venture out with cannabis, know your rights. If you get pulled over, there are laws that allow you to refuse consent to a police search. If you consent to a search, any evidence that’s found can be admissable in court. Whereas, if you refuse and the search is deemed illegal, any evidence is immediately inadmissible. Never physically object to law enforcement. If they continue to search despite your objection, reiterate that you do not consent loud enough for witnesses to hear. Always carry proof of your patient status and be ready to show it in the event you are accused of any cannabis-related crimes.
Use common sense when it comes to cannabis. Never draw attention to yourself. Definitely avoid driving while medicated or medicating while driving. In some states, if an officer smells cannabis, they have probable cause to conduct a search. With this being said, don’t travel with open containers or blatant exposure. And completely avoid taking cannabis anywhere near school zones or daycares. Federal law prohibits people from coming within 1000 ft of these facilities and those that do will face additional penalties. The same applies to firearms. Children, firearms, and cannabis are not things we should ever mix together. It would be in everyone’s best interest to avoid having cannabis in these vicinities.
For cannabis to be taken seriously, we must be sensible about it. This means consuming responsibly and discreetly all the while making a conscientious effort to become aware of not just local, but global laws too. Do your best to not end up in jail over cannabis because you neglected to do the research. If you can’t live without your cannabis medication, you will definitely not have access to it while you’re in jail. All patients should become intricately informed on how to properly maneuver in a world that is largely against them. Otherwise, you might end up like the girl who brought her weed into Russia.