Traveling to another country is a wonderful experience. It’s a privilege that many do not have. We’ve done a great job of romanticizing what it means to travel, but the reality of traveling to other countries is often filled with headaches, long arduous waits, and countless dollars spent on terrible airport food and overpriced coffee.
Still though, millions of people set out every year to cross borders and visit places they’ve never been. If you are a cannabis user who is embarking on an adventure of a lifetime or just going to the next state over for a business meeting, there are many things you need to know in order to avoid issues at the airport, ports of call, and even land crossings. We’ve outlined what you can expect when you travel while using cannabis. Spoiler alert: Just don’t travel with it.
Air Travel and Cannabis
Airports vary greatly in the approach to security and safety management. If you have ever travelled to the United States, you know that they have some of the most extreme security measures in place. It can take hours to get through a security screening at a United States airport.
If you have cannabis on your person while traveling, even if your airport of origin didn’t take it from you, you can expect to be questioned about it upon entering the United States. If you fail to disclose that you have it, it can mean even more trouble for you. In some instances, just saying you have used cannabis, or you use it is enough reason to deny you entry into the USA.
If you are leaving the USA, the same rule generally applies: the powers that be don’t want it anywhere near the airport. Of course, traveling with medicinal marijuana is a different story, but you better have a very valid, recent, and signed letter from your prescribing doctor to justify bringing cannabis to the United States.
Instead of traveling with it, you are better off educating yourself on the cannabis laws in the country you are traveling to and learn about the legal ways of obtaining it. In Canada, for example, you can walk into any government-regulated cannabis shop and buy cannabis products and accessories without question. All that is required is a legal ID showing you are over the age of maturity.
While cannabis is akin to alcohol use in Canada, you aren’t allowed to travel without declaring it first. Any attempts to hide your cannabis usually means harsher punishments and more difficulty getting into or out of the country.
Ports of Call and Cannabis
If you are traveling via cruise ship or boat, you’ll need to do your homework about the sea-faring laws in the country where you plan to visit. Many first-time boaters fail to understand that they cannot consume alcohol or cannabis while operating a boat and think that they are allowed to do whatever they want.
If you are entering a different ocean territory or country while traveling by boat, the rules will change related to cannabis. The respective coast guards are well within their rights to board and search your boat at any time. It’s not uncommon to hear horror stories of people being arrested in foreign countries who thought they were allowed to store cannabis on their person while on the boat. Simply having it in your possession can cause problems for boaters and cruisers.
At the port of call, when you are boarding your cruise ship, you’ll be asked about alcohol and cannabis. When you decide to take a cruise, and by entering the port of call security area, you are agreeing to questioning and making yourself available for search and seizure if necessary.
The security personnel have full authority to deny any passengers who are uncooperative about their belongings or items they are bringing on board, including cannabis.
Again, medical cannabis is considered on an individual basis, so long as proper documentation is provided. Still though, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use cannabis in the form of joints while cruising or on a boat. Your doctor may recommend that you use a CBD oil-based product or capsule so that you don’t run the risk of being escorted from your ship before you ever set sail.
Land Crossings and Cannabis
You might think that crossing into other countries by land is the safest way to hide your cannabis from border security officials, but more cars are searched on a daily basis than bags at the airport. In fact, if security border crossing officials don’t need a reason to search your car and if they suspect you are not being truthful in your declarations, they can seize your car for further investigation and place you under arrest while that happens.
It might seem like a lot of fuss over a plant, but there are many differing rules in different countries about how cannabis can be obtained, used, and sold. It’s legal in Canada across the country, but not everyone can sell it. In the United States, not every state has adopted the legalization of cannabis. It makes it more difficult to know where you can and can’t obtain and use cannabis.
When traveling by car to the United States, it’s best to figure out ahead of time where you can purchase it legally instead of trying to buy it from someone who knows your cousin’s cousin illegally. Your best approach to traveling with cannabis is to be honest about being in possession of it and to know before you go what to expect from each country you visit. Even in Europe, the rules vary greatly and can become confusing for people who are crisscrossing borders by vehicle. Pay attention to the laws and look them up if you have to. It’s best to never assume anything about cannabis when you are traveling.
What to Do if You Are Caught with Cannabis
Despite your best efforts to conceal your cannabis, you may still be subjected to search and seizures at the airports, ports of call, and even land crossings of countries you visit. If you decide to leave your cannabis stored at home, there is also a risk that you could be flagged if your luggage is swabbed for traces of drugs.
Medicinal cannabis will also set this flag flying at security crossings and border control agencies if they are set up to flag for cannabis use. Most people make the situation worse by saying they don’t know how it got on their bags or clothes. As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy.
If you use cannabis at home recreationally or for medical purposes, be sure to clean your clothes thoroughly before travel, don’t use it prior to travel, wash your hands properly and thoroughly, and make sure your luggage or suitcase has been cleaned as well. Don’t borrow clothes or bags from other people and don’t let someone else pack your suitcase.
In the event that you are detained for suspected cannabis use or possession, always cooperate with the border official and don’t put up a fight. When you are open and honest about it, you may fair better, although, the chances of you being charged are still high, especially when traveling to the United States. Take care to prepare properly before traveling and you’ll enjoy your trip as planned without the worry of breaking any laws while visiting your destination.