Travelling should be a way to de-stress. Whether you’re relaxing on a sandy beach or checking out the local landmarks, you didn’t book a vacation so that you could be anxious or in pain.
But if you’re a medical cannabis user looking to travel, you might be worried about finding yourself in that very situation.
As with all medication, denying patients access to medical cannabis can seriously impact their day-to-day personal wellness.
So, what are the regulations? Can you take cannabis on a plane? If so, how much? What if you grow your own? And what about oils or edibles?
Thankfully, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) does allow medical patients to fly with cannabis, but you’ll have to know the ins and outs of the regulations – and we’re here to help.
“Can I fly with medical cannabis within Canada?”
If you’re staying within the country and traveling for under 30-days, flying with cannabis is a breeze with just a few simple tips.
Stay within the carrying limit
As always, the maximum quantity allowed on an aircraft is equal to the lesser of your prescribed 30-day supply or 150 grams. For most, that will mean they can travel with up to a month’s worth of cannabis. Traveling with more could lead to your whole supply being confiscated, so don’t shrug this one off.
Note, you’ll still need to limit liquids to under 100 ml – which could be less than a full month’s supply of a cannabis oil or tincture.
Keep it in your carry-on
While you are technically allowed to carry cannabis in either a carry-on or checked baggage, keep in mind that security dogs at certain airports are trained to identify narcotics in checked luggage. This means that keeping your medication in a checked bag can be risky, so it’s recommended that you keep your supply in your carry-on.
Because medical cannabis is a prescription medication, the airline cannot force you to put it in checked luggage. Some airlines, such as Air Canada, even require medication to be kept in your carry-on, so you there’s no reason not to keep it with you.
Bring your documentation
CATSA’s regulations on medical cannabis advice you to “be prepared to show medical documentation” when making your way through airport security. “Medical documentation” is pretty vague, so bring your Health Canada Registration Certificate and proof of purchase from an LP just to be safe. Also, keep the cannabis in the LP’s original packaging to avoid extra hassle from particularly apprehensive screening officers.
Show up a little early
The regulations previously stated that an on-site police officer be called to verify your documentation. While this is technically no longer the case, cautious customs officers or airlines may still follow the old protocol. The process can take some time, so arrive at the airport as much as an hour early to avoid missing your flight.
Admittedly, there have been a few reports of cannabis users getting through security with a few grams unquestioned, but if you are taking a reasonable supply, expect to be pulled aside and asked for documentation.
Keep it odour-free
Generally, you won’t be stopped if the cannabis/cannabis products are packed away and don’t smell. So, to avoid a close call with missing your flight, make sure your ancillary products (vape pens, portable vaporizers, etc.) are well cleaned and your supply is stored in odor-proof packaging.
As long as you abide by CATSA’s regulations, you can be confident that the only penalty you’ll be subject to is a lengthy trip through customs.
Special Cases within Canada
There is no shortage of nuances to be found in our county’s cannabis laws, and there are a few of note if you’re traveling to New Brunswick or a First Nations Reservation.
Aboriginal land isn’t held to a provincial standard when it comes to cannabis. Each community is tasked with establishing their own rules, meaning you’ll have to check out the reserve’s unique regulations before bringing in cannabis.
Throughout the province of New Brunswick, residents are limited to carrying 30 grams of cannabis. That means you’ll be limited to this amount on all New Brunswick-bound flights. This can be pretty restrictive if your daily dosage in on the high-end or if you’re traveling for more than a couple weeks.
Need More than the Legal Carrying Limit?
Current regulations generally provide enough leeway for most users to survive a short trip. But don’t worry, if you need more than the legal maximum, you’ve still got options.
Most Canadian LPs, such as Green Relief, are able to ship nationwide and can temporarily change your shipping address while your traveling.
Keep in mind, however, that you still won’t be able to purchase more than your prescription dictates during any given month. That means that if you’ve already had your full monthly prescription delivered to you, your LP won’t be able to provide you with additional product even if you’re in a new location. So, plan ahead and ask your LP what cannabis delivery options will be best for your needs.
Traveling with Home Grown Cannabis
If you grow your own cannabis, you obviously won’t have proof of purchase or packaging from an LP.
In this case, make sure you’re carrying an “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation – Registration Certificate.”
Forms of Cannabis
According to CATSA, passengers are permitted to travel with any form of cannabis so long as it is in accordance with Health Canada’s regulations and your unique prescription.
That means topicals, tinctures, oils, and edibles are technically fair game (so long as you’d regularly be allowed to use them).
In the case of edibles, you’ll have to abide by all the usual restrictions when it comes to traveling with food – check out your airline’s unique list of restricted and prohibited items to make sure you’re in the clear.
While there are no official rules preventing you from traveling with alternative forms of cannabis, be aware that they may catch unfamiliar customs officers off-guard, so proceed with caution.
When it comes to medical cannabis, traveling internationally is tough.
Without an export license, it is illegal to carry cannabis out of Canada’s borders – even if you are traveling to a state where cannabis is recreationally legal. If that is the case, we recommend purchasing medical cannabis when you arrive at your destination; contacting a local dispensary ahead of time can ensure that your medication is ready for you upon arrival.
However, for many popular tourist destinations like Florida, Hawaii, and New York, cannabis has only been legalized for medicinal use. If you’re bound for such a destination, your options are unfortunately pretty limited.
This is because prescriptions for medical cannabis in Canada don’t necessarily transfer to the United States.
Obviously, the regulations are dependent on the individual state. If you are travelling, it’s best to reach out to a company that sells medical cannabis beforehand to understand if you qualify for purchasing medical cannabis in that state. Unfortunately, some states require you to be a resident to purchase medical cannabis so it’s not often the case that Canadian patients qualify.