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?' Although cannabis is legal in Canada and many states in the US you can be denied entry to the US for carrying CBD. An immigration lawyer lets you know how to enter the US with CBD.
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.
Can I Bring CBD Over the US Border?
Canada legalized cannabis in 2018 which brought out many questions about bringing cannabis over the border between Canada and the US. There have been many legal issues with bringing cannabis into the US from Canada but recently a new issue has been raised. Recently a woman was banned from entering the US because she had CBD on her.
Issues With Bringing CBD Into the United States
US Border Patrol stopped a woman from entering the US because they found CBD oil in her backpack. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is taken from the cannabis plant with many health benefits without the psychoactive part. CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil. It’s gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies confirming it may ease symptoms of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.
Previously, people have been banned from entering the US when they’ve admitted to smoking cannabis before but this has been the first time CBD has come into question. This unnamed woman who was stopped for CBD was threatened to be banned from the US for life. Even though cannabis is legal in a few states travellers are prohibited from carrying cannabis and its related products over the border.
The woman said she was asked by border patrol officers if she had any “leafy greens” on her person. The officer did not say the word “cannabis,” she said.
“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,” she told CBC News. The woman in question said she knew loose cannabis and joints are prohibited at the border — there are signs at the border warning travelers not to bring them — but she didn’t realize the same rules apply to the CBD oil she uses for medicinal purposes.
Consequences of Bringing CBD Across the Border
Currently bringing any type of cannabis product across the border can lead to being barred from entering the US forever. The woman was fined $500 for failing to declare the oil, fingerprinted and subsequently denied entry to the U.S. If she ever hopes to enter the US again she will need to apply for a waiver which is $600. The U.S. government demands a criminal record check from the RCMP, letters of reference, a letter of remorse for past wrongs, proof of employment and documentation outlining a person’s residence and work history.
- Banned for life
- $500 fine for failure to declare
- $600 waiver for denied entry
- Letter of remorse for past wrongings
Are You Worried About Bringing CBD Over the Border or Have Been Denied Entry to the US Because of CBD?
Whenever someone is denied entry at the border, the individual is not only unable to enter the U.S., but he or she faces an unexpected trip back home (not to mention feelings of humiliation and depression). However, in addition to exploring opportunities to waive inadmissibility, a legal expert can help ensure that an individual is not wrongfully denied entry in the first place.
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VisaPlace Immigration News Contributor
Hello! I am one of VisaPlace’s many immigration news contributors. Comment below if you have any questions or comments about this article.