Medical cannabis in some shape or form is now legal in 33 US states and the District of Columbia; 11 states and Washington, DC have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Patients often wonder about the legal issues surrounding traveling with their product, whether within the state they live in or between legal states. It’s important to understand what is allowed and what violates the law before taking your medical cannabis on a trip with you. You can speak with one of our Florida medical cannabis doctors if you need specific advice on your situation and how to best utilize your product while traveling. To find out if you pre-qualify to become a medical cannabis patient in Florida, take our quick eligibility survey.
While medical cannabis Is legal in Florida, patients taking a trip should take precautions while traveling in order to minimize the chance of being charged with using their medication while driving, using cannabis in a public place, or violating other laws depending on the situation.
Interstate Transportation of Medical Cannabis
Cannabis is still federally illegal, and this is important to remember, especially when traveling from one state to another. “…Federal laws still say marijuana is illegal. Period. While the federal authorities have made it public that they will be turning a blind eye to these state initiatives and allowing the states to determine how to handle these matters themselves (for now), they have not agreed to stop enforcing the laws where they have jurisdiction. One of those places is in interstate commerce. In other words, the federal government has jurisdiction when things cross state borders, and since federal law still prohibits marijuana this would be illegal.” (1) Regardless of the laws in the state you are coming from or the one you are traveling to, crossing state lines with cannabis is in violation of federal law, and you risk being charged with a crime. Unlike a driver’s license, which is honored in all 50 states and many other countries, a medical cannabis card from one state does not have to be honored in another state. Not only that, but what is allowed in Florida may not be permitted in another state or any other state you travel through on the way to your destination. Not all states with medical cannabis legislation allow patients to use high-THC cannabis; in fact, though all the states directly adjacent to Florida have medical cannabis laws on the books, they only allow CBD or low-THC products. (2) This means that if you travel from Florida to Louisiana, which has a medical cannabis program that allows patients to medicate with products higher in THC, you are violating the law twice by not only crossing state lines, but by bringing a substance not legally allowed in Alabama or Mississippi through those states.
In states with legal recreational cannabis, you can purchase products without a medical card. Some non-recreational states offer reciprocity to out-of-state medical card holders, but not all of these states allow non-residents to visit dispensaries or purchase product. You won’t have your product confiscated if you have a card and properly marked medical cannabis from your home state, but you may not be allowed to buy it from a local shop unless you go to one of their state-licensed physicians and obtain a recommendation. States offering reciprocity in some form include Alaska*, Arizona, Arkansas, California*, Colorado*, Hawaii, Maine*, Massachusetts*, Michigan*, Nevada*, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon*, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington*, and Washington DC. States with asterisks have legalized recreational cannabis.(3) Bear in mind that every state varies in the amount of product you can possess without violating their law; if you will be traveling and consuming cannabis in another state, getting yourself up to date on their legislation and regulations is a good idea to avoid running into trouble.
If you choose to violate federal law and travel across state lines and/or through states where medical cannabis is not legal, you should be aware of the potential consequences for being in possession of a Schedule I substance.
“Section 812 of Title 21 of the U.S. Code, the Schedule of Controlled Substances makes no distinction between a legal state, a medical state, or an illegal state. Violating this section is a federal crime and could earn you a drug trafficking charge, even for the lowest tier of cannabis.
For the possession of:
- 1 kilogram or less of hash oil
- 10 kilograms or less of hashish
- 1 to 49 cannabis plants
- Less than 50 kilograms of cannabis flower
The penalties are:
- 1st offense: up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 to $1 million
- 2nd offense: up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $500,000 to $2 million
Basically, it doesn’t matter if it’s a gram or 50 kilograms of cannabis–the penalty remains the same.” (4)
If you are choosing to travel by air, remember that airports and airplanes are within federal jurisdiction. While TSA employees do not actively screen for cannabis, if they find it, they have the option of contacting local law enforcement. You can travel with CBD oil and FDA-approved low-THC cannabis products, but putting high-THC items in your checked luggage or carry-on bags is not allowed and can result in legal penalties if discovered. (5)
Traveling with Medical Cannabis in Florida
Florida patients are allowed to travel within the state with their medical cannabis, but they cannot use it while driving. Patients need to be careful where they medicate. Even a vehicle is considered a public place according to current state law.
“According to Senate Bill 8A, medical marijuana use and/or administration is strictly prohibited in the following places:
- On any form of public transportation *
- In any public place *
- In the patient’s place of employment (unless permitted by his or her employer)
- In a state correctional institution
- On the grounds of a preschool, primary school, or secondary school
- On a school bus
- In a vehicle
- In an aircraft
- On a motorboat *
Low-THC cannabis (less than 0.8% THC and more than 10% CBD weight for weight) use is permitted in categories followed by an asterisk (*).” (6)
It is recommended that patients needing to medicate while traveling within the state only take what they need for the duration of their trip. Keep the cannabis out of sight, in its original containers, and out of reach of the driver. Putting it in a locked safe in the back seat or in the trunk is a good idea. Do not travel with plants or smoke cannabis while traveling. Avoid schools, day care centers, parks, and other drug-free zones in order to remain in compliance and prevent maximum sentences in federal court if charged with violating their regulations. (5)
Patients traveling with medical cannabis should always carry their patient ID card. If stopped by law enforcement, this will help avoid complications due to the discovery of cannabis or related delivery devices. If you will be gone for an extended period of time, consider using alternatives like edibles or transdermal patches that offer extended periods of effectiveness. If there are dispensaries near your destination, you can purchase products from them instead of traveling with enough to last the entire journey. Taking some basic precautions will help your trip be as stress- and complication-free as possible. Responsible travel with cannabis reflects positively not just on the traveler, but on medical cannabis users as a whole.