How to Travel with CBD or Cannabis

As more and more states and local municipalities relax their laws surrounding CBD and marijuana, one thing is clear. The patchwork of laws can make traveling with CBD highly confusing. As we embark on the summer travel season, it’s important to know what’s allowed and what’s going to get you delayed, detained or even arrested.

In December of 2018, the Farm Bill federally legalized the production, purchase and use of cannabidiol (CBD) so long as it’s the strain derived from hemp, a cousin of the marijuana plant. The hemp strain is known to contain minimal levels of THC, the compound in marijuana that produces a high. This week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that brings Texas law into alignment with federal law regarding hemp production and THC levels in CBD. So long as CBD is derived from hemp, contains less than 0.3 percent THC and is in compliance with the 2018 regulation, they're legal.

The Transportation Security Administration this month changed its cannabis policy to allow travelers to carry CBD and FDA-approved marijuana-based drugs aboard an airplane. The TSA update was first reported by the cannabis industry news site Marijuana Moment. Under the new TSA rules, the CBD substances must have been produced under regulations defined by the 2018 Farm Bill. Federal law states that CBD must contain less than 0.3 percent of the compound THC, and many state laws are following suit. 

Here’s the text from the TSA’s website regarding what’s allowed:

“Possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products. 

“Products/medications that contain hemp-derived CBD or are approved by the FDA are legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law under the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018.

“TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”

Seems straightforward enough, but what remains unclear is how the federal travel and border agencies like the TSA and Customs and Border Protection can and should enforce the rules regarding CBD. Enforcement relies on individual agents, so travelers run the risk of being referred to law enforcement if the products they’re carrying don’t clearly meet the regulations. Even if a criminal case is thrown out, travelers still face the stress of missing flights and the headache and costs of potential legal battles because of the patchwork of regulations regarding CBD across the country as well as the myriad ways individual agents may enforce those regulations.

Recent arrests at DFW International Airport have highlighted the risk travelers face when toting CBD. In recent months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at DFW have detained travelers who were found to be in possession of CBD oil. Field tests used to determine whether the CBD oils found in travelers’ luggage contain THC even in trace amounts, can be inaccurate. Airport police are then called in to make arrests, sometimes on felony charges. In one case, reported NBC 5 DFW, a 71-year-old woman was booked on felony drug charges for possession of CBD oil she said she used for pain relief. Her arrest very well could have been the result of an inaccurate field test.

As we enter the summer travel season, Chad West, PLLC would like to encourage our clients to be aware of the nuances of cannabis regulation and how the inconsistencies can interfere with your travel plans. Here are our top tips on traveling with CBD or cannabis-derived products.

Know the laws on the books at your destination. If you’re traveling to a state where cannabis use is legal, you should be fine. If you’re traveling to a state where it’s still illegal, you could be looking at trouble. Remember that CBD derived from marijuana is is still illegal according to federal law.

Buy from a reputable CBD supplier.While the hemp industry is regulated, CBD products themselves are not. So, the risk of getting detained or arrested in some ways relies on the quality of the product you purchased. If you bought a high quality CBD supplement from a reputable manufacturer, chances are good that they’ve had their products third-party tested to confirm that there’s no THC in the final product. If you’re buying a novelty item at a souvenir shop at the beach, you don’t have that security. If you are a CBD user who needs the product for managing legitimate medical concerns such as chronic pain, anxiety or a host of other medical issues, make sure you research the products you’re using. Buy products from manufacturers that are transparent with their inactive and active ingredients and clearly label their products. Keep a printed copy of your order handy so that any enforcement agent can see the product is derived from hemp.

Carry appropriate documentation.If you or a family member suffer from intractable epilepsy and you have a Texas Medical Marijuana ID card, carry it with you at all times, especially when traveling.

If in doubt about the THC content of your products, leave them at home. 

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