Cannabis is legal in CA, but can you travel with it?

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America’s patchwork of cannabis legalization laws can blur the lines when it comes to traveling with weed lawfully, Leafly Senior Editor David Downs explains. Photo by Shutterstock.

It's the season of vacations, road trips, and getaways. If your summer plans include seeing friends and fellow cannabis connoisseurs, you may want to surprise them with some quality bud. 

However, transporting weed can be tricky and illegal due to America’s patchwork system of cannabis legalization laws. 

Leafly Senior Editor David Downs gives a breakdown.  

Cannabis is not legal on the federal level, but it is lawful in some states. What are the rules when it comes to flying domestically?

[America] has 23 legalization states, so there are a lot of people taking personal amounts of cannabis through airports to their destination domestically. 

You want to keep it to a personal amount, which is under an ounce in California, because local police at airports can decide how to enforce local law. 

In general, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is looking for glass and metal, so you don’t want to do anything to arouse their suspicion. Odor-proof bags can help. 

When it comes to other paraphernalia like pipes or grinders, you want to keep it clean without any THC residue on it. Under federal hemp laws, anything less than 0.3% THC is hemp and legal, so a clean grinder or pipe has no THC.

Can you travel with cannabis across international borders in North America?

In the past, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has banned Canadians from entering the United States based on their social media activity around marijuana use. Marijuana remains illegal in Mexico too.

I wouldn’t want to take a risk and violate another country’s sovereignty and their drug laws by bringing legal cannabis from California into those places. Similarly, I would avoid traveling with cannabis when coming into the U.S.

Are cannabis vapes allowed on planes?

A new wrinkle in traveling with cannabis [has to do with] vape batteries. It sounds like you want to keep vape pens in your carry-on, and you don’t want to have those in checked luggage. The Federal Aviation Administration and airlines are worried about the lithium ion batteries rupturing and causing a fire on the plane. Officials [also say] that travelers should not use cannabis or tobacco vapes at the airport or on the plane.  

What are the rules for traveling by car with cannabis in legal states?

[Cannabis] should be in the trunk and it should be locked up in a non-open container. The rules are very similar to alcohol where a sealed container in the trunk is legal in California, but an open container on the dashboard is not. Traveling in between states on American highways with cannabis is also not legal. 

Do travelers need to be aware of the cannabis laws in the state they are traveling to?

It is very critical to be aware. We’re seeing a lot of people get tripped up in the South or Midwest, especially around concentrated cannabis. State laws can be extremely stiff for even the tiniest amount of concentrated cannabis there. [Law enforcement] is going to weigh the whole vape cartridge, not just the oil inside, and that could equal the potential for a prison sentence.




Matt Guilhem


Tara Atrian