5 Things You Need to Know When Traveling as a Medical Cannabis Patient

Are you allowed to travel with medical cannabis? Can you cross state lines with medical cannabis? Can you bring cannabis on a plane or train? What about a bus? While in another state, what are the rules to purchase it legally? These are just a few of the many questions that medical cannabis patients may have while travelling for the holidays.

While most people may take for granted the ability to travel across state lines during the holidays, for the almost 5 million medical cannabis patients across the country, traveling can sometimes be a difficult undertaking. Many patients rely on their medicine every day, and since traveling across state lines with cannabis is still a federal offense, many patients need to plan ahead in order to know where they will be able to find their medicine safely and legally.

To help answer all of your questions, Americans for Safe Access created The Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel. The guide provides patients with an understanding of how to obtain medical cannabis while travelling outside of their state and contains helpful travel tips for patients.

1. What to Know Before You Go

Before traveling, it is important for patients to review the most up-to-date information for the state(s) they will be visiting since laws and regulations can often change. As more states move toward medical and adult use laws, the availability for patients to find cannabis when they travel has greatly increased. However, not all states are alike, and patients should be aware of what is and is not legally permissible related to cannabis possession and use when traveling to another state. A quick glance at legality by state is below:

  • Adult Use and Medical: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.
  • Medical & Decriminalized: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island
  • Medical Only: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia
  • Decriminalized: Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina
  • Illegal: Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Wyoming

2. Purchasing Cannabis in Other States

Just because a state has a medical cannabis program does not necessarily mean that a visitor’s status as a patient in their home state will give them access to another state’s supply. Reciprocity is the term used that refers to laws providing legal protection for non-resident medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess medicine. However, the rules regarding reciprocity can differ greatly from state to state, and can often be complicated. For example, some states require visiting patients to apply for temporary cards or only allow visiting patients to purchase a limited amount of cannabis compared to residents.

3. Utilizing Out-of-State Adult Use Dispensaries

Patients traveling to states that permit the adult-use of cannabis but do not extend reciprocity to non-resident patients may have to obtain cannabis from an adult-use retailer. While some dispensaries cater more to patients than others, patients who are unsure about the suitability of specific options offered by a dispensary should inform staff of their patient status and ask for help identifying products appropriate for their conditions. If possible, we recommend that you contact dispensaries in the area you are travelling to in advance to find out where appropriate cultivars and products can be purchased.

Product safety testing and labeling requirements vary from state to state, and states may even have different testing requirements for adult-use and medical cannabis products. Appropriate certifications from an independent oversight body, such as ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program, can help patients identify companies that voluntarily subject themselves to robust oversight and products that are well made and accurately labeled. Refer to the list of PFC-certified companies.

4. Store Cannabis While Traveling

Just like at home, medical cannabis should be stored properly to protect the contents as well as to minimize the release of odor. Light, heat, and oxygen can degrade the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes. Excess moisture can lead to spoilage and fungal growth. Generally, cannabis should be kept in a container that minimizes exposure to those factors and should be stored in a climate-controlled setting to avoid heat and humidity. To minimize the smell, containers should be rigid, airtight, and made out of a non-absorptive material like glass or stainless steel.

5. Traveling by Plane or Train 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows the transport of prescribed, FDA-approved cannabis products (e.g. Epidiolex) as well as the transport of CBD products manufactured in accordance with the 2018 farm bill. Those products must be made from industrial hemp and cannot contain more than 0.3% THC. While TSA agents do not actively search for cannabis or other drugs, they are required to report the discovery of such substances to law enforcement. Some major airports have cannabis “amnesty boxes” where patients can dispose of any cannabis remaining in their possession before boarding their flights. Without amnesty boxes, patients may wish to discreetly dispose of cannabis in a trash can before undergoing security screening.

Other popular forms of transit have also created restrictive policies regarding cannabis. Amtrak bans “the use or transportation of marijuana in any form for any purpose… even in states or countries where recreational use is legal or permitted medically.” Greyhound’s policy prohibits “alcohol, drugs, or weapons anywhere on the bus (including in your checked baggage).”

Most importantly, while many states offer reciprocity to visiting medical cannabis patients, patients transporting cannabis between two states are still breaking federal law even if they are transporting cannabis between two states that have organized medical or adult use programs.

For more advice for traveling as a medical cannabis patient, visit ASA’s Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel.