Traveling with Medical Marijuana
It can be a challenge to travel for medical marijuana patients. In addition to concerns brought on by their condition, traveling with medical marijuana can be difficult, especially for out of state trips. Even in certain areas of the country, in-state travel can present problems when local ordinances vary. Patients should consider the following factors before traveling with their medication.
Traveling Within the Same State
Medical marijuana patients who are appropriately registered with their state should not encounter problems if they are traveling locally. Patients may have their medication on their person when they are walking and driving within their own county. For out-of-county trips, patients should be aware that some counties set their own laws regarding maximum medical marijuana amounts, though, in California, all counties must allow at least the state minimum. Patients should know their state’s laws and, as a rule of thumb, avoid traveling to unfamiliar areas with more than the allowed minimum.
If a patient is traveling out-of-county and the state’s recognized minimum is not sufficient, it may be possible to arrange temporary dispensary privileges in the area where the patient is staying. Patients should ask the dispensary they are currently using for advice, or check their state's website for the rules.
Whether in state or out of state, medical marijuana patients should never travel with marijuana plants. Even in states where it is legal to grow medical marijuana plants, their transportation is highly restricted. In California, for example, there are only three situations where it is appropriate to travel with these plants:
- When a patient or caregiver is bringing plants from a dispensary to a residence.
- When a registered caregiver is moving plants from one patient’s residence to another.
- When a patient is moving residences.
Except for these situations, avoid traveling with medical marijuana plants to minimize the chance of legal complications.
Out of State Trips
Travel to different states for medical marijuana patients is difficult because they cannot legally bring their medical marijuana in most cases. Patients should note these guidelines:
- States without medical marijuana laws can arrest patients under possession laws, even if the patient is registered in their home state.
- Federal authorities can arrest patients under federal drug trafficking laws if medical marijuana crosses state lines.
- In states that recognize medical marijuana cards issued by the patient’s home state (called reciprocity), the patient usually still needs to register in the state that they are visiting and acquire any medical marijuana needed there, rather than bringing it with them.
- In the above situation if patients plan to bring their own medical marijuana, they should make sure that the states border one another so that they are not traveling through states where medical marijuana is illegal.
Traveling by Ground vs. Flying with Medical Marijuana
The safest mode of transportation for traveling patients is by car. Private bus and train companies may remove passengers at their own discretion who appear under the influence or are known to possess medical marijuana, even with a medical marijuana card or valid physician’s letter.
As for flying, airports and airplanes are federal jurisdictions, and patients can be detained and arrested when going through security. Federal authorities do not recognize the medical marijuana laws or cards of any state. There are some airports that are medical marijuana ‘friendly’ and allow patients with correct documents to board with the amount deemed necessary for personal consumption.
For more detailed information on this, read our article: Can I Fly with Medical Marijuana?
Always check the laws of your home state and the state that you will be visiting before taking a trip with your medication. Though it is very helpful to patients, medical marijuana is not yet legal in all areas and even in states where medicinal use of marijuana is legal, state and local laws vary. Know your rights and responsibilities as a patient, and always ask an authority if you are unsure of the law.
For more information on Flying with Medical Marijuana, here is a direct link to TSA's policy.