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By Thomas Mitchell for Westword
Summer may be winding down, but Labor Day weekend is still a popular last hurrah for travelers and party-goers alike.
With the plant more culturally prevalent than ever, traveling cannabis consumers can find themselves in some confusing and troublesome situations — especially when they leave their safe little havens in California, Colorado, Oregon and the nine other states and territories where adult use is legal.
For some cannabis users, though, traveling to places where the plant is banned is more than just a buzzkill, warns Debbie Churgai, director of cannabis advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access.
“Most people take for granted the ability to travel across state lines during a long holiday weekend. But for almost 3 million medical cannabis patients across the country, traveling can be a difficult undertaking,” she says. “Many patients rely on their medicine every day, and since traveling across state lines with cannabis is a federal offense, patients need to plan ahead in order to know where they will be able to find medicine safely and legally.”
To help you tokers, jokers and medical patients stay safe during this holiday weekend, ASA created a handy travel guide with helpful tips and legal guidance about cannabis laws around the country. The guide offers tidbits on legal rights, proper pot storage and airline rules for medical marijuana patients and cannabis users — because nobody wants to end up in handcuffs while heading off on a final vacation of the season.
Here are a few highlights from ASA's recommendations:
Know Before You Go
This might seem elementary, but it's important to look up state and even city laws about cannabis possession and public use before traveling. A few states will accept medical marijuana cards from other states, but most won't.
Cities like New York don't have recreational dispensaries, but have decriminalized possession and have become much more lax with public consumption — but that's still something you do at your own risk anywhere, including Colorado. Other places that haven't updated old cannabis laws might carry stiff fines and even jail time if you're caught with cannabis, so be aware of where you're heading.
Know Your Rights
If you're in a state that's legalized medical marijuana, it's important you know your rights, as both a citizen and a medical marijuana patient. Don't agree to any illegal searches, and calmly state your objections if you feel your rights are being violated. Learn more about your legal rights here.
The right storage for your pot will protect both the flower quality and your butt from the police. Get something airtight that won't allow heat, oxygen or light in or out, and try to keep it properly hidden until you reach your destination.
Keep Your Papers
No matter where you're traveling, if you're taking cannabis with you, bring any MMJ identification. Keep your doctor's (and lawyer's) contact information readily accessible as well, because you never know when you might need it.
Other Security Forces
It's not always the police you need to worry about when traveling with cannabis. Security for cruise ships, the Transportation Security Administration and other enforcement entities for travelers all have their own ways of dealing with cannabis.
Don't Be an Asshole
This one isn't from ASA, it's from us. Just because you believe in cannabis use or are an MMJ patient, that doesn't give you the right to smoke wherever you want, whenever you want. Be respectful, and only toke in public if you don't have anywhere else to go.