If you have a prescription for cannabis, you may be hoping to bring some along the next time you travel—but this can be much more complicated than travelling with your average prescription drug.
The good news is that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has recently released clarification on the procedures around flying with medical cannabis, as long as you’re travelling within Canada. The bad news? If you’re heading anywhere else in the world, you may have to leave your prescription at home—at least for now.
Travelling within Canada
It is legal to travel with medical marijuana within Canada, according to CATSA. However, there are a few important caveats to note:
- You must bring medical documentation to prove that you have a prescription. And CATSA notes that, in airports where police are present, they will be called in to check this documentation.
- As well, your bags will be searched to ensure you do not have more than the legal quantity of medical cannabis with you (30 days’ worth).
- Because of this extra screening, you will likely be spending a longer time than usual at security. That means getting to the airport early is essential—depending on who you ask, it’s recommended that you budget an extra 30 minutes to an hour for this process.
- It’s always a good idea to call your airline before the day of your flight to let them know about your prescription and find out exactly what their protocol is. You should also inform airport staff up front that you are carrying medical marijuana—this will help to expedite the process of verifying that everything is in order. If you fail to declare it, staff may assume you are trying to bring it along illegally, which will inevitably call for extra screening and delay.
- While the CATSA site notes that it’s acceptable to bring medical marijuana in your checked luggage, experts highly recommend that you keep it only in your carry-on so that you are able to account for it and present your documentation with it at all times.
What about travelling to other destinations?
Here is where things get tricky: CATSA’s rules for travelling with medical marijuana do not apply to international travel. Wherever you go, you will still be subject to the rules of your destination.
What about snowbirds with medical marijuana prescriptions who are hoping to head down to the United States for the winter? Although medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states, it is still prohibited at the federal level. A recent court ruling does protect medical marijuana users in any of those 25 states from federal prosecution, so long as they have fully complied with state laws. However, that applies to those already in those states—not those attempting to fly into them. Unfortunately for travelling snowbirds, the U.S. federal government does not currently allow marijuana on airlines or in secure airport zones.
In fact, there has been recent discussion around a controversial U.S. border policy: denying entry to any Canadian who admits to having smoked marijuana in the past—even if they have a prescription for doing so. With the Trudeau government’s promise to legalize marijuana in Canada—along with the fact that marijuana is now legal in a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska—policies like this are necessarily being reviewed. But, of course, this process will take time.
As the laws continue to shift and evolve, change is more than likely on the horizon. For now, however, those hoping to fly with medical marijuana will have to stick with a Canadian destination.
Cannabis Life Network. “Tips for flying with medical cannabis.” CLN. https://cannabislifenetwork.com/tips-for-flying-with-medical-cannabis/
CanniMed. “Travelling with medical cannabis.” CanniMed Blog. https://www.cannimed.ca/blogs/blog/117970885-travelling-with-medical-cannabis-voyager-avec-son-cannabis-medical
Crawford, Alison. “Flying with prescription pot? CATSA has finally clarified the rules.” CBC. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/catsa-pot-medical-fly-guidelines-1.3802032
Hamilton, Keegan. “Feds can’t prosecute medical marijuana users who follow state law, court rules.” Vice News. https://news.vice.com/article/feds-cant-prosecute-medical-marijuana-users-who-follow-state-law
Hopkins, Andrea. “Canada to press U.S. on ‘ludicrous’ marijuana border policy.” Reuters. https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN11F2HB
Planning to travel out of province? Don’t forget: Canadians need travel insurance for trips within Canada.