Canadians love to explore. Whether it’s the wilderness of the Rockies, heading to a cabin in Muskoka, or grabbing a buddy and road tripping down to the States—we’re always up for an adventure. And when we travel, it’s only natural that we’ll want to take our essentials. Favourite snacks? Check. A good book? Check. Cannabis? If you’re going abroad, you have to leave that one behind.
As the legal cannabis era sets in, it’s smart to stay up to date on the rules related to travelling with cannabis both within and outside of Canada—and our cannabis travel guide helps with that.
Travelling with cannabis in Canada
Travelling with cannabis within Canada is actually fairly easygoing and intuitive, providing that you use your common sense. If you’re flying domestically, you can travel with up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in either checked or carry-on luggage. That’s not an arbitrary number. It’s the legal limit for how much cannabis you can carry on your person at any given time—airborne or not.
If you’re travelling with cannabis in your car, it should always be properly stored, out of sight, and away from the front seat. Legally, cannabis products can’t be accessible to anyone in the vehicle, so you should keep them locked in the trunk to avoid any misunderstandings. It also doesn’t hurt to store more odorous products in an air-tight, smell-proof container—a product that has become increasingly popular under the legal era—so that there is no lingering scent in the car.
You cannot take Cannabis into the U.S.
Even though there are now 33 U.S. states that have legalized cannabis in either a recreational or medical capacity, the federal government still treats marijuana as a Schedule One prohibited substance. The U.S. Border Patrol is a federal agency and international borders fall squarely under federal jurisdiction.
A 21-year-old university student from Guelph, Ontario recently learned the hard way that the United States Border Patrol takes a very hard stance on cannabis. In August 2019, she attempted to cross from British Columbia to Washington State with a bottle of CBD oil in her possession. She had assumed that since the non-psychoactive cannabis product was legal in both B.C. and Washington, it would be okay to take between the two territories. She was very wrong.
Not only was she fined $500, she was also initially served with a lifetime ban from ever entering the U.S. again. The ban was eventually reversed after the case attracted extensive media coverage, with the condition that the student pay an additional $585 to apply for a special waiver. Even so, she can likely expect significant extra screening and delays the next time she tries to cross the border. So, if you were thinking of taking cannabis into the U.S.—don’t. If you do, you’re likely to face prosecution or an irreversible ban on going back.
Currently, cannabis industry professionals are in a strange position when it comes to entering the U.S. Canadians connected to the cannabis industry are “generally” allowed to enter the country “for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry,” according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This can be limiting for executives looking to participate in some of the biggest cannabis industry conferences—which take place in legal cannabis states—or explore other business opportunities across the border.
Unfortunately, there’s no good answer to this problem. If Canadian cannabis professionals must travel for business, it’s unwise to lie to border officials if asked. However, they should avoid mentioning any connection to the cannabis industry unprompted.
Canada’s international stance
There is only one thing to remember about travelling internationally with cannabis in your possession. Do not do it. It is against Canadian law to bring cannabis in or out of the country.
Cannabis remains illegal in almost every other country. Should a Canadian manage to get cannabis through airport security when leaving and then get caught by another nation’s customs, the punishment could include deportation, hefty fines, or imprisonment. The consequences will depend on the country’s laws, the amount in the travellers possession, or the disposition of the border customs officials.
This is what lies ahead for cannabis and travel
Cannabis legalization has made some critical breakthroughs in recent years. Mexico and Luxembourg are poised to follow Canada as the next legal cannabis countries, and the likes of Spain and Italy might not be far behind. As of now, no international agreements exist between Canada and any of these other countries that would allow cross-border travel with cannabis. As legalization becomes more widespread, however, we could see a day when we won’t need to think twice about bringing cannabis wherever we go.
For now, be careful and enjoy your cannabis here in Canada.
Want to learn more about what you can and can’t do with cannabis? Check out more of our content.
Photo credits: Daniel Avram / Shutterstock, averie woodard / Unsplash