What You Should Know About Traveling with Medical Cannabis
December 7, 2020 in Cannabis Law
For many medical cannabis patients, having access to their medicine at all times is extremely important for their well-being. One of the most confusing situations is understanding all the nuances of traveling with your medicine. It is important to know your rights and to be aware of the worst case scenario if you are stopped by law enforcement. In this article I will explain the laws regarding car, air, bus, train and ridesharing travel. I will also discuss medical cannabis card reciprocity.
Because cannabis is still federally illegal, it is a crime to transport medical cannabis from one state to another even if both states have medical cannabis programs. Technically, a medical cannabis patient can be prosecuted for drug trafficking if caught crossing state lines with cannabis products.
Penalty for Drug Trafficking
The chances that a medical cannabis patient will be arrested for drug trafficking may be small, but the penalties are quite steep.
- First Offense: Up to five years in prison with a fine of up to $250,000
- Second Offense: Up to ten years in prison with a fine of up to $500,000
While these penalties are typically imposed on high-volume distributors rather than individual patients, it is still important to be aware of a possible worst case scenario if you are caught crossing state lines.
The best law enforcement encounter is no encounter. If you must travel with your medicine, make sure that the police have no cause to stop you as many cannabis arrests begin with a simple traffic stop. Follow these simple rules:
1. Your vehicle is in excellent working order. Follow the speed limit and adhere strictly to the Rules of the Road.
2. Your driver’s license, license plate renewal, vehicle registration and city sticker are current and visible
3. Your medical cannabis is concealed; the best place is in airtight containers in your trunk.
4. Limit the quantity of cannabis that you carry with you
5. Consider using delivery methods where there is no odor such as tinctures, topicals, edibles and transdermal patches
Know Your Rights If Stopped
Medical cannabis patients are not required to consent to a search nor to disclose that they are carrying medical cannabis. If medical cannabis is discovered during a search, you should present your patient ID card and refer the police officer to the database of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
If they attempt to search your car or your belongings, calmly and quietly say: “I do not consent to a search.” This may not stop the search from proceeding, but if they do a search which would be deemed illegal, any evidence that was discovered may not be admissible in court. In the event of a search, do not impede the actions of the police officers which may result in a charge of resisting arrest or assault which could lead to dire consequences. Continue to say quietly and calmly: “I do not consent to a search.”
Be Careful of Casual Consent
If you are stopped and you exit your vehicle but leave the door open, the police officers may search your car, claiming they thought you were giving them consent by leaving the door open. Make sure you keep saying, “I do not consent to this search” rather than something less forceful like “I would rather you didn’t search it.”
Maryland Monthly Patient Limits
- 120 grams or about four ounces of flower unless you receive a special dispensation for more
- Extracts with up to 36 grams of THC
Carry This Information With You At All Times
- Medical cannabis ID card
- Current physician’s recommendation
- Phone numbers of your physician and your lawyer
- Emergency contacts in case you are arrested
Tell your friends, roommates and family about your medical cannabis usage so that they may help you if you are harassed or arrested. They should also be aware of their own legal rights, just in case they are questioned.
Air Travel Regulations
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows the transportation of the following cannabis products:
- Prescribed, FDA-approved such as Epidiolex
- CBD made from hemp with less than 0.3% THC
While the focus of TSA screening is that of detecting security threats to planes and passengers, they do not specifically search for cannabis. However, if they do find it, they must report it to law enforcement. Some of the major airports offer “amnesty boxes” which are available for cannabis disposal before the boarding of flights.
With some airlines, there are some “grey areas” about transporting cannabis products, so check their baggage policies.
Trains, Buses and RideSharing Policies
- Amtrak has banned the use and transportation of all forms of cannabis for any purpose
- Greyhound prohibits alcohol, drugs or weapons anywhere on the bus, including in your luggage.
- Uber’s polices are confusing. While it states that it prohibits the use of the app in order to commit any crime, including transporting drugs, or to violate any law, they have sponsored cannabis holiday celebrations such as 4/20.
- Lyft only limits drug and alcohol use for its drivers; for its passengers no open containers of alcohol are allowed. They have also sponsored 4/20 celebrations. Please be aware that ridesharing drivers are using their own vehicles and they may not want their car to smell of cannabis products. Either ask them first, use other delivery methods that don’t produce an odor or use smell-reducing or eliminating products.
Medical Cannabis Reciprocity States
If you are traveling out of state, there are certain states that have a medical cannabis reciprocity policy which allows you to purchase your medication from their dispensaries. However, be aware that access is at the discretion of the owner. Make sure you call the dispensary ahead of your arrival to see if they accept out-of-state medical cards.
Please note that most reciprocal states require that you register as a patient and pay a fee to receive an out-of-state card. Do your homework before you leave home!
baltimoresun.com, FAQ: What You Need To Know About Medical Marijuana in Maryland, Sarah Meehan, March 20, 2018
safeaccessnow.org, The Medical Cannabis Patients’ Guide To Use Travel, updated Nov. 17, 2020
marijuanadoctors.com, Guide to Traveling with Medical Marijuana, updated Jan. 30, 2019
greenhealthdocs.com, Can I Use My Medical Marijuana In Another State? Aug. 13, 2020