Editor’s Note: One challenge that chronic pain patients who use medical marijuana face is travel. The federal classification of marijuana and the uneven adoption of medical marijuana laws in our states means you have to think about what to do when you get on an airplane. National Pain Report advocates that you comply with US and international law. You should research in advance what the potential legal ramifications may be with respect to traveling with marijuana, or any medication. The opinion and suggestions of this valuable contributor and expert, if followed, could result in legal consequences.
Allie Haroutunian, a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report on issues around medical marijuana, filed this opinion.
Travelling with cannabis can be a perilous experience if done incorrectly. It’s also important to note that nothing is foolproof and there are risks — even if you travel smart. So take this with a grain of salt.
I wouldn’t recommend traveling internationally with any illegal substances. The risk is too high, especially with the amount of screening done in the name of security. Also, federal laws come into play once you’re on an airplane or being screened in customs. The TSA’s website states, “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
If you must fly with it — put it in your luggage. Check that bag, especially since the TSA only rifles through random bags — not every single one. Hide it very well [read: creatively], and do not bring over a half ounce. The smell needs to be masked so put some potpourri or coffee beans in your bag if you’re nervous. Mailing packages takes the crime from state to federal crime, too. There are federal minimum sentencing guidelines regarding mail fraud and sending illegal substances which are punishable with a minimum of 10 years in federal prison and $10,000 fine. Mailing internationally is a big no-no, especially for a rookie.
Flower, another name for the marijuana plant material, is a bit trickier. I suggest using mylar bags for all substances, but especially flower. They can’t be x-rayed and are impenetrable to oxygen — which means no smell gets out either. Mylar bags are typically used for extremely long-term food storage and became popular during the Cuban Missile Crisis when people were stocking their bunkers for the apocalypse. They’re very inexpensive and can be purchased in bulk online. Seal them with a flat-iron, or any type of heat sealer. Food Saver bags are a popular go-to item, however they are not a good choice. Oxygen escapes out of those plastic bags — meaning if your cannabis plant material is strong (colloquially referred to as “dank”) than people can smell it. Be careful about trusting your own sniffer because its easy to get used to smells you’re around all the time. People often get caught using Food Saver bags, especially when using the mail.
I would not assume that using Fedex or UPS is safer than the postal service. All mail carriers use multiple safety standards and routinely check their packages on a randomized basis. If you’re sending packages, using a different to and from name doesn’t exclude you from liability, either. But don’t put your real name and return address on the package, thats just common sense. Mailing is the safest route in my opinion.
If you must drive with it — edibles are a good way to go. In inconspicuous packaging, they look like any other snack food. Oils can be masked and hidden. Use the mylar bags for actual plant material. Hide it well and obey all traffic laws.
Make sure you don’t act like you’re hiding something — which is a common mistake people make when they’re doing something illegal. Act cool, calm, and collected at all time. Don’t draw attention to yourself, and stay organized. It may feel like you’re running a drug smuggling operation — and you are. So get in that mainframe to keep yourself safe from the law. This information isn’t meant to scare; it’s meant to educate. It’s important to know the risks ahead of time. It’s likely you won’t be caught but there is a potential.
Happy and safe travels to all!