Can You Travel with CBD Oil? Laws are Murky, But Here’s How to Protect Yourself
Is it legal to fly with CBD products within the United States? If it’s a certain type—yes. If it breaks the rules—no. Here’s how to make sure your CBD can be transported legally.
We probably don’t have to tell you, but cannabidiol (CBD) oil has become a firm favorite among alternative treatments in anxiety, epilepsy, skin care, nausea, and more. What’s not so firm is the legality of traveling with it.
We’ll be honest: The legality of CBD is still muddy. The government has done a terrible job making standards clear, leaving the door wide open for local law enforcement to put everyday people through a legal wringer with no outcome. If you run across a security officer who’s in a bad mood, there aren’t many cut-and-dry regulations that will spare you grief.
A central problem is confusion about what CBD is and what it does. Think of cannabis as having two major components. CBD is the compound that is responsible for the major health effects of cannabis—it’s the part that’s increasingly legal. The other part, delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the chemical that gives you a high and makes law enforcement freak out. Smoking a joint delivers both compounds, but products can be manufactured to exclude THC, eliminating the high. Those are generally what are referred to as CBD products, although even those may still contain trace amounts of THC, sometimes by accident.
Two important questions will determine whether your CBD product is legally protected: Was this derived from hemp or from marijuana? and What is its concentration of THC?
Know its origin
CBD can be derived from two major sources: hemp (totally legal) or marijuana (legality differs by state).
Traveling with hemp-based CBD can be fine. That’s because the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (“Farm Bill”) removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, and in late 2019, the USDA affirmed that you have the right to transport hemp-based CBD across state lines.
Before you travel with marijuana-derived CBD, check the legality of medical marijuana at the state you’re visiting. A majority of American states have legalized it, so that gives you protection at the state level, so you shouldn’t encounter issues as long as you don’t pass through other states that ban it.
Will the TSA care?
There’s one more factor you must consider when traveling with CBD oil: the trace amounts of THC it contains.
The TSA’s official site says CBD oils “remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA.”
So according to the TSA, you may travel with CBD if its THC content is under that 0.3% threshold. (And, of course, if the amount you’re carrying conforms to the usual 3-ounce limit that applies to all liquids and lotions.)
The TSA says it’s not interested in policing illegal drugs. It’s concerned about passenger safety, so it’s not going to search your bags for drugs. But if its agents do happen to come across any illegal substance in the course of normal screening, they still might refer you to the police.
It may be legal federally, but you might have to deal with zealous local officers who are keen to enforce their state’s tighter rules. In 2019, a 69-year-old woman was arrested by a sheriff deputy at the gates of a Disney World park as she tried to enter with her family. The CBD oil that she used to soothe her arthritis tested positive for THC content despite the fact its label claimed it had none. While CBD is legal federally and she had a doctor’s note, the state of Florida had not caught up and the deputy wouldn’t let it go, so she spent 12 pointless hours in jail before she was released.
The furor was for nothing. Charges against her were dropped, and two months later, CBD was legalized in Florida. It’s unlikely her arrest would happen today, but the incident highlights how labeling standards and police education will be key until the law becomes clear and definite.
In the United States, law enforcement officers are often just as confused by the law, so if you’re polite and don’t look like a high-volume drug trafficker, they are more likely to look the other way—but still, that’s no guarantee.
For maximum confidence, make sure the product was obtained from industrial hemp and contains less than 0.3% of THC; that generally covers you on the more stringent federal level, and no state will bust you for a hemp-based product. Now that the USDA is monitoring THC content, labeling accuracy for trace amounts of THC should improve, too, so you’ll be much less likely to get caught out.
It’s all so confusing and needlessly stressful that we could use a good anti-anxiety treatment. Anyone know of something that would work?
Flying with CBD and Understanding the Laws so You Don’t get Arrested
Recently (around Memorial Day) the TSA updated their stance on carrying CBD when boarding a plane. CBD is used largely as an alternative treatment for common ailments including anxiety, pain, epilepsy, and nausea (might even help with inflight feels).
CBD doesn’t get you high, although there has been some apprehension among some people due to its links with cannabis.
Recreational marijuana is legal in some states, but until now, the TSA has stuck to their original stance on cannabis products and TSA officers were obligated to report a passenger if they were found carrying CBD. The change was brought on by a recent approval by the FDA of a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex, which is used to treat a rare form of epilepsy.
Since the FDA had placed a holistic ban on all marijuana products, the approval of the drug may have also indicated that state and federal restrictions would soon change. But the TSA report was very specific about their stance on marijuana in general. Here’s what their website says:
“Marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities. “
Products containing hemp-derived CBD are allowed by the TSA as long as they have no more than 0.3% THC, the minimum amount allowed in all states.
In the past, TSA didn’t distinguish between marijuana and hemp-derived products like CBD oil. The new rules are welcome news for millions of people using CBD for a variety of ailments – or for recreational purposes. At the moment it’s not clear how the TSA will determine how much THC is present in CBD products, since they don’t do on-site testing.
If there’s a problem, a spokesperson for TSA said that TSA agents were required to hand over the matter to local law enforcement. This shouldn’t be a problem for travellers since all 50 states have legalized hemp-derived CBD.
An important thing to note is that the final decision about whether to allow an item through security lies with the TSA officer. The federal Farm Bill passed in 2014 classified CBD as an agricultural product and took it off the list of federal controlled substances. It is a surprise to some experts that the TSA took one whole year to update their regulations, but it’s no surprise they still hold the ban against marijuana products. The challenge at this point will be figuring out how to check products for THC concentration, since that is the main problem.
Under the December Farm Bill, Florida legislators approved the commercial production of hemp, but the final products have to stick to the 0.3% restriction on THC in all their products. According to Jeffery Sharkey, member of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, the recent changes in legislation will fuel an already burgeoning industry of hemp-derived products.
A cure for anxious flyers
If you’re one of those people who get anxious about flying, then taking CBD will calm you down in a moment of turbulence or if you feel sick for some reason. As congress begins to show signs of thawing with regard to marijuana legalization, there is a likelihood that eventually THC will be allowed through airports. For the moment, the rules dictate that all CBD products be extracted from hemp and contain very little THC.
So what if your CBD was extracted from hemp? According to Medium.com, CBD products are okay to fly with in Florida and through the country. Most people will agree that the cannabis industry is in a transition period, and the federal authorities have been slow to come up with definitive rules on certain cannabinoids.
Florida residents can travel with CBD
Florida state laws allow residents to use medical marijuana, but travelling with it is not allowed. The compound THC is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug, and even though the state allows its use as a medication, traveling with marijuana is prohibited.
Now, the important thing to keep in mind when traveling is that federal law trumps state law, so it doesn’t really matter that THC a psychoactive compound, is legal in medicine shops in Florida, you can’t take it with you out of state – not even to California. The good news is, CBD is legal by federal law, and the TSA just made that clear with their recent announcement.
Gov. Ron Desantis signed bill SB1020 into law in January 2019 and that pretty much cleared things as far as travelling with CBD. But it’s always a good idea to learn about marijuana laws in the place you’re travelling to, because local some law enforcement can be stricter than others in enforcing laws on cannabis. So as long as you don’t have THC content that exceeds 0.3%, then your CBD product should be legal to carry on a plane out of Florida and to any part of the country (but always check local laws).
In case you’re wondering what the situation is for people travelling with CBD or medical marijuana to marijuana states like California, this statement from a Lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Department is enlightening:
“If the TSA calls us [about finding marijuana], we’d go up and make sure it is within the legal quantity. If it is, we’d just stand by while the passenger decides what to do with it. TSA may not want it to fly, but that doesn’t mean it is illegal in California”
Marijuana is not allowed in Orlando International Airport
Similar sentiments were reported from the Orlando Police Department which said in a statement that they won’t arrest anybody lawfully carrying medical marijuana in Florida, even on airport property. So the moral of the story is, you won’t end up in jail for carrying CBD out of a Florida airport; but the situation is different if you’re carrying marijuana to a state that hasn’t legalized marijuana in any form. And even then, it’s important that you find out whether they allow it at the airport.
According to a draft policy published recently by orange county Florida, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority will confiscate and possibly charge people for carrying marijuana to the main airport. This is despite legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana in Florida. This article explains more about this story: Orlando new draft policy.
TSA cannabis controversy
In a recent story that didn’t quite make the news, the TSA temporarily allowed passengers to carry medical marijuana for about 2 hours. It was back in 2017 when the TSA temporarily adjusted their What Can I Bring? web page. The TSA was contacted by the website Leafy about this incident and promptly reviewed their website and returned to their original stance.
Where can I find the latest updates on travel restrictions involving marijuana?
The website for the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana is a good place to check for updates but you can also check with local news sites for information on marijuana. Violating travel restrictions is a very serious offense and you don’t want to get caught up with such drama here in Florida or at your destination. Also check the Marijuana Policy Project website for information on marijuana laws in Florida and learn more about the timeline for implementing new state laws surrounding marijuana.
There are some major developments in Florida as well. For instance, the Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried has introduced the first “cannabis czar” to help with creating a regulated marijuana market that will include medical marijuana. A 2017 law already allows state law to limit the number of marijuana dispensaries in Florida.
The Florida Department of Health has laid out detailed plans for establishing medical marijuana treatment centers, and their website highlights the new regulations for interested parties. For starters, only Florida residents are allowed to own marijuana dispensaries.
Before the passage of Amendment 2, Florida state law only allowed a limited group of patients to use medical marijuana, and they placed a limitation on THC levels in the products. Now patients have more freedom with the type of products they can use, but the part about travelling with it is still tightly controlled.