- Photo by Samantha Bailey
- It's legal to buy and smoke marijuana in Seattle, but that doesn't mean you can bring your spoils back to Illinois with you.
Welcome to the Reader’s new cannabis column To Be Blunt. We’re here to answer your canna questions with the help of budtenders, attorneys, medical practitioners, chefs, researchers, legislators, and patient care advocates. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since this is a holiday weekend, we're going to start with a timely question:
Q: Can I travel with my weed? Is it okay if I'm going to a legal state? Does it make a difference if I have a medical card? —A Reader reader
A: Dear Reader reader,
We've enlisted Larry Mishkin, a local attorney who specializes in cannabis law, to tackle this one for us. His response, which has been edited for length and clarity, is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.
"Since this is a legal question, let's start with a legal answer: it depends. More specifically, the answer depends on where and how you are traveling. If you are traveling within Illinois's borders and will not leave the state, then Illinois medical patients may travel with their medicine so long as it is unopened, not being used during travel, and the patient is not in possession of an amount in excess of the legal personal limit.
If you are traveling in the state via air, bus or train, you need to make sure you know and understand the rules for possession of cannabis for the carrier on whom you will be traveling (keep in mind that use during transportation is never allowed). Although some states, such as Oregon, allow passengers to transport cannabis on flights that both originate and arrive within the state's borders, most states with medical or adult-use programs do not.
Here is the other side of "it depends": marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Therefore, any product containing in excess of 0.3 percent THC may not be transported across state lines. Period. You may not travel from state to state with any marijuana and/or marijuana-based products (extracts, oils, edibles, vapes, etc.) in your possession. This is the law regardless of the marijuana policies of the state you are leaving and the state you are entering.
In other words, traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles with marijuana purchased in Washington breaks the laws of both states and federal law. This is true even though both Washington and California have active adult-use programs. Similarly, if you are a medical marijuana patient you may not transport your medicine across state lines, even if both states have active medical marijuana programs. This includes mailing marijuana to your travel destination.
Complicating matters are local policies such as LAX's recent decision to allow departing travelers to have up to one ounce of marijuana or other THC products without being stopped or arrested. Any passenger departing from LAX in possession of ANY amount of marijuana is still breaking the laws of California, of the state of arrival, and federal law.
Even TSA indicated its agents are not looking for marijuana when screening passengers and will follow the protocol established by the airport's host city. While this provides some security that you may be able to board your flight with your marijuana, it will not provide a defense if you are arrested for traveling with it.
For those traveling by car over the holiday weekend, be aware of routine stops near a state's border. People visiting Colorado who try to transport marijuana purchases back home are often pulled over by the state police in Kansas and Nebraska waiting just a few miles on their side of the border. Do not ignore the risk of being caught for traveling with marijuana across state lines.
International travel? Never. You do not want to be arrested in a foreign country.
Finally, be cautious about traveling with CBD. Though it's now unequivocally legal at the federal level, its legality varies from state to state. Also, many people cannot distinguish between marijuana and hemp-related products, including CBD. If you are seen consuming CBD or if it is discovered during a routine traffic stop or other travel-related inspection, at a minimum, your CBD may be confiscated.
Solutions: If you are an Illinois medical patient traveling within the state, you can change your assigned medical dispensary to another located near your Illinois destination. For patients traveling out of state, dispensaries in Michigan, Nevada, and Maine will accept your medical card for medical purchases. For adult users traveling to a state with an adult-use program, fill your travel THC needs when you arrive. If you are a medical patient or an adult user traveling to a state without similar programs, you will need to find a different way to relax and/or medicate yourself until you return home."
Lawrence D. Mishkin is counsel to the Hoban Law Group based in Denver, Colorado, and has his own civil practice, Mishkin Law, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. Larry has been a lawyer for 32 years, and in 2013, he expanded his practice from commercial litigation to include representing groups seeking marijuana dispensary and cultivation licenses in Illinois as well as business interests ancillary to the medical marijuana market. Larry regularly consults with and counsels persons and groups looking for entry into the medical and adult-use cannabis industry in Illinois as well as in the national and international marijuana, hemp, and CBD markets. v