Whether you’re a recreational or medical user, you may not know the full scoop about traveling with marijuana. While it may seem like you’re safe carrying marijuana across state lines via car or airplane, there are actually a number of legal technicalities that could get you into some serious trouble. In order to fully understand the risks of making your way out of town with marijuana, you need to consider the details of cannabis law on the state and federal level, as well as your rights. Keep in mind that cannabis law is one of the most rapidly changing types of law in the United States, so what is true now may not be true in a matter of months.
There are a lot of misconceptions about crossing state borders with marijuana. You may think you are in the clear if you are crossing between states that have legalized marijuana. This, however, is not necessarily the case. As of November 2016, it is illegal to carry marijuana between the states of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Each state has imposed legislation that prohibits the import and export of marijuana from the state itself. So while each state permits an adult carrying one ounce of marijuana on their person, this does not apply to the borders. It is tricky legislation because if these states allow the crossing of marijuana over state lines, there is a chance that the jurisdiction of one state who has legalized marijuana could interfere with that of another bordering state who hasn’t. There is still plenty of work to be done to clarify this legislature and create a free marijuana trade zone, but the laws remain for the time being.
It may surprise you that even traveling via airplane within the same state where marijuana has been legalized is technically illegal. This is due to the fact that airports and aircraft operate under federal law–and marijuana is illegal at the federal level. So, although you may have a medical permit for the marijuana in your baggage, or you may have purchased your marijuana legally, the moment you flash your boarding pass to a TSA agent, it becomes illegal. It should comfort you to know that the purpose of the TSA is to protect aviation and stamp out threats of terrorism, not to bust drug users. This does not mean, however, that you and your marijuana are safe. It’s possible that you may find the TSA agent who is having a bad day and turns you over to the local state’s law enforcement. What happens to you from there is up to their discretion. And TSA does not consider where your destination of origin was or where you’re going. Federal law rules all in airports so you’re taking a major risk when traveling with marijuana.
That being said, maybe you need to travel with marijuana for medical reasons. Although your safest bet will always be to leave the cannabis at home, security is less likely to notice edibles compared to oils or greens. If it is truly a medical necessity, you should be aware that in federal court, there is no medical defense for possession, trafficking, or transportation charges. It is not even legal to say “medical marijuana” in your defense. If you are convicted, fines are steep and jail time is possible even though you may have a legal medical license from your state. Patients and caregivers traveling with medical marijuana are not always convicted, but there have been reports of harassment and arrests for the possession of drug, regardless of license.
What To Do
Cannabis laws vary from state to state. If you do have an encounter with law enforcement, it will help to know about the local, state, and federal regulations on your possession of marijuana. Following the laws may not prevent an arrest, but they can help make your case an easy one to dismiss if it gets to court. Some steps you can take to prevent confrontation in terms of growing or possessing medical marijuana (or using recreationally) include remaining far from “sensitive use” areas like schools and daycare facilities, and avoiding the presence of firearms or weapons if you’ve been confronted. When you are medicating, it is best to hide the distinctive scent of marijuana by refraining from using near windows, in plain sight, or in public. It is especially important not to medicate and drive, as the laws governing DUI convictions include being under the influence of marijuana while operating a vehicle. If your neighbors don’t share your opinions about cannabis use, it’s probably a good idea to medicate in a way that doesn’t permeate their lifestyle. That means keeping the smell contained and making sure any plants are not easily visible. When you are at the airport and have marijuana with you, try to carry small amounts and try not to attract attention to yourself in security lines. Empty your water bottles and be cooperative. Agents are usually not interested in busting someone unless they seem to be a threat. These preventions should make it less likely that you will encounter police while medicating or carrying marijuana from one destination to the next.
If you are confronted, however, you need to get legal representation immediately. The criminal defense lawyer at Deaton Law Firm provides aggressive and confidential representation that will protect your rights and provide the best possible outcome for your situation. Don’t hesitate to call them for help during a run in with cannabis law.