Government of Canada’s official one-stop-shop for comprehensive international travel information. The law on CBD oil in the US can be complex, so where does this leave passengers, who want to take theirs with them? In the blog we ask, 'can I travel with CBD oil?' The United States Customs and Border Patrol has reversed its decision to ban a Canadian woman entry to their country for her lifetime after United States
Cannabis and international travel
Cannabis is legal for adults in Canada. However, it is still illegal to transport cannabis and products containing cannabis – including edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals – across the Canadian border:
- No matter how much cannabis you have with you
- Even if you are authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes in any form, including cannabidiol (CBD)
- Even if you are travelling to or from a municipality, state or country where cannabis has been legalized or decriminalized
If you are entering Canada and have cannabis with you in any form, you must declare it to the Canada Border Services Agency.
Not declaring cannabis in your possession at the Canadian border is a serious criminal offence. You could be arrested and prosecuted.
It is illegal to take cannabis across the Canadian border, whether you are entering or leaving the country. You could be charged with a criminal offence if you try to travel to other countries with any amount of cannabis in your possession. This applies to all countries, whether cannabis is legal there or not.
Cannabis is illegal in most countries. If you try to travel internationally with any amount of cannabis in your possession, you could face serious criminal penalties both at home and abroad. You could be denied entry at your destination country if you have previously used cannabis or any substance prohibited by local laws. You could also be denied entry to other countries in the future.
It is your responsibility to learn about the laws, including the legal status of cannabis use and possession, in your destination country. See our Travel Advice and Advisories for more information.
Travellers to the United States
Although the possession of cannabis is legal in some U.S. states, it remains illegal under U.S. federal laws. Do not attempt to cross the Canada-U.S. border with any amount of cannabis in any form, even if you are travelling to a U.S. state that has legalized possession of cannabis.
Previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by U.S. federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the U.S. If you are travelling for business related to the cannabis industry, you may be deemed inadmissible.
Patrick and his roommate are packing for their upcoming trip.
He sees his roommate putting legal cannabis into his luggage.
Luckily, Patrick had checked Travel.gc.ca/cannabis before packing for their trip.
He knew it is against the law to take cannabis across Canada’s international borders.
Is it illegal to fly into the United States with CBD oil?
CBD oil is part of the daily routine for thousands of people, so if you’re considering a holiday or a business trip, then you might be wondering if you can take it with you. It may seem as easy as popping it in your bag and boarding the plane, but the rules in the United States can be complex. In this blog, we ask ‘can I travel with CBD oil?’
Federal law vs state law
Rules in the United States on cannabis-infused products are made and governed by separate authorities at a country-wide level (federal law) and at a state level. Before you travel, you need to know the rules of both, or you risk being caught out.
Don’t just check the federal law and assume you’ll be ok, because local law enforcement officers at your destination may take a different stance on it.
As in the case of Lena Bartula, who in 2019 at the age of 71, was arrested at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after officers found CBD oil in her hand luggage. She spent two nights in jail before the case against her was dropped by local prosecutors.
What does the federal law say?
Airport checks in America are the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). On their website, they make it clear that ‘marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some cannabidiol (CBD) oil products, remain illegal under federal law’.¹ However, there are some exceptions:
- products that contain no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis
- products that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
To unpick this, we need to know a bit more about THC and what products the FDA has approved for use in the US.
What is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)?
Tetrahydrocannabinol is an organic compound found in some species of cannabis plants. It’s similar to CBD but with one big difference – it can get you ‘high’.
Hemp (a species of the cannabis plant) is considered to have no THC – or at least less than the 0.3% threshold stated in federal law. In 2018, the Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, so it can now be legally grown in the US.
What products are approved by FDA?
The FDA has only licensed one product for use in the United States – Epidiolex. This prescription drug is used to treat seizures in two rare and serious forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS)².
It makes it clear that it is illegal to add CBD to food, or label it as a dietary supplement.
What does the state law say?
You might assume that flying with hemp-derived CBD oils is safe as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC, but, unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as it seems.
Each individual state (and there are 50 of them!) has its own take on the rules. In Utah, for example, it is legal to use CBD oil with less that 0.3% THC, but CBD edibles are illegal with the exception of gelatin cubes (similar to CBD gummies).³
In North Carolina, it is illegal to grow hemp, but you can use it for medical purposes as long as it contains less than 0.9% THC. Hop over the border into Virginia, and CBD is legal, as long as it follows the guidelines set by the FDA.⁴
If you’re planning on passing through more than one state during your trip, then we recommend making a note of the rules for each state.
What about medical marijuana?
Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Although, the TSA makes it clear that their focus is on security, and they are not there to search for marijuana, if they do find an illegal substance on you during routine screening, they will refer it to law enforcement.
Though, medical marijuana is legal in 37 states, and recreational marijuana is now legal in 18 states, you have to ask yourself, is it worth the risk if you get stopped by the TSA?
Travelling with CBD products
Flying with CBD oil is anything but straightforward where America is concerned, but if you need to travel with these products, then there are things you can do to prepare.
- If you’re travelling to America with a UK-approved drug that contains cannabis, take your prescription with you to show on arrival. If possible, leave your medicine in its original packaging, so it can be verified by officials.
- For CBD products, we recommend taking its certificate of analysis (CoA) with you. This should include the amount of THC it contains, a list of other ingredients, and where and when it was tested.
- Before you go, print out the TSA’s most up-to-date regulations or save a link to their website on your phone, so that you have something to refer to if you are stopped by an agent, who is new in the job.
- Look at the rules in the state you are visiting, so you know what to expect, and if it’s possible, consider buying CBD over there so you don’t have to travel with it.
If the worry of travelling with CBD outweighs the benefits, then it might be worth considering whether it’s better all round to leave it at home.
The key takeaway
CBD oil with small amounts of THC (under 0.3%) is legal in the US at a federal level, but don’t get caught out by the differing rules in each state. Before you travel, check the local laws in the states where you will be staying as they could be different.
Travelling with CBD isn’t straightforward, but there are things you can do to mitigate the risk, including being able to prove the THC content of your products, or having your prescription with you and the original packaging for your drugs.
Ultimately, the final decision on whether you can bring CBD into the United States lies with their officials. If the benefit of having it with you outweighs the risks, then be prepared to answer their questions on arrival.
Lifetime Ban For Crossing the U.S. Border with CBD Oil Reversed
The United States Customs and Border Patrol has reversed its decision to ban a Canadian woman entry to their country for her lifetime after United States border protection agents discovered cannabidiol (CBD) oil in her backpack.
According to reports, the woman, a 21-year-old Ontario University student who wants to remain anonymous, was pulled aside for a secondary check when she attempted to cross the border into the U.S. at Blaine, Washington in August, 2019. She was travelling to a friend’s cabin. The woman was asked if she had any “leafy greens”, to which she responded “no”.
I said no because, to me ‘leafy greens’ is like marijuana, the actual bud, things that you smoke, recreational drugs. I use CBD daily and it’s not psychoactive, it can’t get me high at the dosage that I’ve been told to take it at.
The woman was searched by border patrol and a bottle of CBD oil was found in her backpack. She admitted that she knew that joints were prohibited at the border and there were many signs warning travellers not to enter the U.S. with such substances. However, she believed that it was permissible to travel with CBD oil as she did not realize the same rules applied to it and as the oil is legal in both Washington state and British Columbia.
CBD oil is a non-psychoactive product of the cannabis plant, which is used by many to help regulate bodily functions, including pain. It has been reported that the woman uses CBD oil to treat the painful side effects of scoliosis (a condition wherein the spine twists and curves to the side).
The woman received a $500 US fine for not disclosing that she was carrying CBD oil, she was fingerprinted and she was denied access to the U.S.
In order to gain admission into the U.S., the woman must apply for a special waiver through a new online portal called e-SAFE, which will cost $600. The U.S. government also requires a criminal record check from the RCMP, letters of reference, a letter of remorse for past wrongs, proof of employment and documentation detailing an individual’s residence and work history.
Late last week, the woman learned that the United States had reversed their order banning her from entering the U.S. for her lifetime and she would not need to apply for a waiver. No explanation was given to explain this surprising decision.
In an email to CTV News Vancouver, U.S. CBP spokesperson Jason Givens (“Givens”) advised that Customs and Border Patrol management reviews all cases in which “travellers are deemed inadmissible”. According to Givens:
In this particular case, management determined that it did not meet the terms of inadmissibility. In some instances, decisions about admissibility may be changed upon further review and presentation of additional information, verification of further evidence, etc. It is important to note, however, that all cases are unique and travellers are strongly encouraged to not attempt to cross the border with marijuana and products derived from marijuana.
CANADIAN BRETT HEUCHERT ALSO GIVEN A LIFETIME BAN
In early August, 2019, Brett Heuchert, a Canadian citizen living in Japan landed at Seattle’s Sea Tac International Airport from Tokyo. He was randomly selected for additional screening. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents searched his bags and found two bottles of CBD oil. They suspected that the oil contained tetrahydrocannabinolin (also known as THC, the psychoactive constituent of cannabis) After testing, it was determined that one of the two bottles had tested positive for THC (the psychoactive agent found in marijuana). Heuchert believed that he could bring the CBD oil across the border because marijuana was legal in the state of Washington.
Heuchert was given the choice of either being deported back to Japan or to Canada. The CBD oil was confiscated and he was issued a $500 US fine and a lifetime entry ban to the U.S.
Heuchert was deported to Canada and the border agents returned the bottle of CBD oil that tested negative for THC. When he arrived at Vancouver International Airport, Canadian Border Services Agency agents detained him and confiscated his bottle of CBD oil. However, he was not arrested or charged.
CONFUSION SURROUNDING CROSSING THE BORDER WITH MARIJUANA
According to CBC News, thousands of Canadians have been denied entry to the U.S. for admitting that they have smoked marijuana once in their lives.
Although some U.S. states have legalized marijuana, cannabis possession remains a federal criminal offence and a controlled substance under U.S. federal law. The U.S. border is governed by federal law. Thus, travellers are prohibited from bringing cannabis or any related products across the border.
According to Washington state immigration lawyer Len Saunders, who represents both individuals facing a lifetime ban from the U.S.:
There seems to be a lot of confusion with Canadians entering the U.S. with regards to CBD and THC and all the derivatives from marijuana. From my experience, if anything is coming from the marijuana plant, even it it’s an oil or a gummy candy, it seems to be grounds not only for inadmissibility and fines…but also a lifetime ban. … Even though she made an honest mistake, if the officers deem that she has a controlled substance with her, and she admitted to it, then she’s inadmissible for the rest of her life. Even if she gets a waiver approved, she’ll still have to go through a renewal every year, two years or five years.
It is recommended that all travellers leave their cannabis products, including those that contain THC or CBD, at home. The Canada Border Services Agency has a new cannabis slogan, which reads “Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.”
If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug related charge or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Barrison Law online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.
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