With legal cannabis available across Canada and in 24 out of 50 United States (as of this writing in early 2024) it's a great time to be a weed-loving tourist. But what if you are travelling within Canada or the United States, or crossing the border? Can you bring your cannabis along for the journey?
Travel Within Canada: Bring Weed
When travelling within Canada, if you meet the minimum age requirement of the province or territory you are in, you can possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent. (Note this is only one ounce, a fairly small amount that many in the industry would like to see increased.)
If you’re flying, your cannabis can be checked inside your luggage or packed in your carry-on. You may also find a designated smoking and vaping area outside your terminal, like this one at Vancouver Airport that’s clearly weed friendly. Of course, don't be like comedy genius George Carlin and smoke weed on the plane.
When driving, the rules vary slightly by province. Generally, cannabis must remain sealed in its original packaging and out of reach of anyone in the vehicle. The regulations are similar to existing laws for transporting alcohol in your vehicle.
Crossing the Canadian Border: No Weed
You cannot take cannabis across the Canadian border. The Canadian government’s Cannabis and the Border website clearly states:
“Cannabis is legal for adults in Canada. However, it is still illegal to transport cannabis and all products containing cannabis (including products containing CBD) across the Canadian border:
- no matter how much cannabis you have with you
- even if you are authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes in any form, including CBD
- even if you are travelling to or from an area where cannabis has been legalized or decriminalized”
The Canada Border Services Agency has blunt (LOL) advice on travel with cannabis: “Don't bring it in. Don't take it out.”
Here's a video from the agency:
Travel in the US: Bring Weed Intrastate Only
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, says MJBizDaily. “Since then, the medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 40 states and the District of Columbia. The recreational or adult-use of cannabis has been approved in DC and 24 states”.
In 2022, voters in Maryland and Missouri voted to approve recreational cannabis sales. That year saw the opening of legal weed retail in New Jersey and the first legal dispensary in New York state. In 2023, Minnesota, Ohio and Delaware legalized recreational marijuana.
Flying With Weed: Illegal in the US
Because cannabis remains illegal federally, you can not board an airplane in the US with it. “Most people are under the impression that it is acceptable to travel with cannabis since it is legal in California, however, they are not aware of the travel restrictions,” Karla Rodriguez, a police captain at Los Angeles International Airport told CNBC. “Additionally, passengers need to be aware of the legality of cannabis in other states or countries.”
She notes that most arrests involve “passengers who take an amount which is more than what is considered personal use.”
CNBC reports that “some airports offer amnesty boxes for travelers to discard their pot before traveling. There are 12 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and one at Midway International Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.”
Driving With Weed: Don’t Cross State Lines
Similarly, driving with cannabis between states - even legal ones - can be a problem, says writes Road Affair. For example, even though Oregon and California or Vermont and Massachusetts are legal, the borders between the states, as well as the interstate highways, can fall under federal jurisdiction and cannabis remains illegal federally.
The consequences of getting stopped “...depends on how much you are carrying, whether it is your first offense, and the nature of the stop. The DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency] officially states that even for a first offense, transporting less than 50 kg of marijuana can merit a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”
Police in illegal states may even “...target out-of-state license plates, especially if it is from a state where marijuana is legal. And if you are in a state where marijuana is completely illegal, all the cop needs to do is claim that he smells marijuana and then he can search your car.”
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