Don’t Travel with Cannabis

Marijuana is illegal in most countries in the world, is federally illegal in the United States, and is highly regulated even in the U.S. states that allow it. Hemp laws are all over the place in the U.S. and are often just as bad as marijuana laws internationally. It goes without saying that it’s a bad idea to travel with cannabis. Today I’ll look at a few key examples of why traveling with cannabis – as well as other substances – is likely to lead to some serious issues.

Traveling with CBD oil

Over the years, I’ve spoken to a number of publications (like the Atlantic and Weedmaps) about the trouble of traveling with cannabis (including hemp-derived CBD) products. More states have relaxed their rules on flying with cannabis, and in 2019 the TSA even kind of relaxed the rules a bit. Here are some examples from just 2019 (a really bad year to travel with CBD if you ask me):

  • The Canadian government announced that it was illegal to fly into Canada (where marijuana is now federally legal) with CBD
  • A Canadian woman reportedly faced a potential lifetime ban on entry into the U.S. for entering with CBD oil
  • A 71-year-old woman was reportedly arrested at the Dallas Forth Worth Airport, and spent two days in jail for flying with CBD oil
  • A grandmother was arrested for reportedly bringing CBD oil into Disney World

To be fair, CBD laws have evolved a bit since 2019, but this is only a glimpse into some of the issues travelers faced and still face when traveling with CBD. Many states and countries still forbid it, and overzealous airport police or TSA agents could easily mistake it for actual marijuana oil. And of course, there are so many shady CBD brands out there that claim to have compliant THC levels but do not. People should be able to trust product labels, but buying some unknown brand at a random gas station or truck stop can and often does lead to issues like this. So my position from back in 2019 and 2020 still holds, alongside more recent warnings from my colleague Fred Rocafort – traveling with cannabis of any kind, including CBD, is a bad idea.

Traveling with cannabis

Whatever a state says about traveling with actual marijuana, it’s a terrible idea. Just take the case of Brittney Griner that’s playing out in Russian courts. Griner is a WNBA star who was arrested with cartridges of cannabis oil when flying to Russia to play basketball. She appeared in court recently – months after her arrest – to plead guilty to the charges. In the hearing, she explained that she had brought the cartridge on accident. Nevertheless, she could spend up to 10 years (!) in a Russian prison.

Unless the United States can negotiate Griner’s release, she will likely spend a significant amount of time in a Russian prison. This should just not be the case. Griner’s case is obviously influenced by America’s support for Ukraine, which is in the process of defending against a Russian invasion. But still, the case highlights how backwards some countries’ laws are for cannabis possession.

For example, in Dubai – often thought of as one of the more progressive countries in the Middle East – you can be jailed for traveling with cannabis . . . in your blood. Last year, a man from Nevada was arrested in Dubai and could spend four years in prison for the heinous crime of having legally consumed cannabis in Nevada. The man did not have any cannabis with him when he traveled to Dubai. But after being hospitalized with pancreatitis, a urine test showed he had marijuana in his system and he was arrested. Imagine coming out of surgery to that news.

On that note, there are apparently still many places where a person can get a death sentence for cannabis. The list includes countries you wouldn’t necessarily expect too, like Singapore or even the US for smuggling large amounts (though a death sentence has reportedly never been handed down here). This once again underscores the danger of traveling with cannabis.

Traveling with other drugs

If you think traveling with cannabis is a bad idea, traveling with other drugs is much worse. Take the example of an Israeli woman in Dubai who was arrested in 2021 with half a kilogram of cocaine. Initially, she was sentenced to death. While the death sentence was only very recently dropped, she will now spend the rest of her life in a prison in the United Arab Emirates. I could find a million other examples like this, but I think you probably all realize just how backwards drug law and policy still is almost everywhere in the world.

If there’s any takeaway from this post, it’s that traveling with cannabis (and any other drug) is a bad idea, full stop. Even as legalization efforts continue, being conservative about travel is the only way to avoid hairy situations like the ones described above.