Can You Travel with CBD Oil? Laws are Murky, But Here’s How to Protect Yourself Is it legal to fly with CBD products within the United States? If it’s a certain type—yes. If it breaks the 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?'
Can You Travel with CBD Oil? Laws are Murky, But Here’s How to Protect Yourself
Is it legal to fly with CBD products within the United States? If it’s a certain type—yes. If it breaks the rules—no. Here’s how to make sure your CBD can be transported legally.
We probably don’t have to tell you, but cannabidiol (CBD) oil has become a firm favorite among alternative treatments in anxiety, epilepsy, skin care, nausea, and more. What’s not so firm is the legality of traveling with it.
We’ll be honest: The legality of CBD is still muddy. The government has done a terrible job making standards clear, leaving the door wide open for local law enforcement to put everyday people through a legal wringer with no outcome. If you run across a security officer who’s in a bad mood, there aren’t many cut-and-dry regulations that will spare you grief.
A central problem is confusion about what CBD is and what it does. Think of cannabis as having two major components. CBD is the compound that is responsible for the major health effects of cannabis—it’s the part that’s increasingly legal. The other part, delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the chemical that gives you a high and makes law enforcement freak out. Smoking a joint delivers both compounds, but products can be manufactured to exclude THC, eliminating the high. Those are generally what are referred to as CBD products, although even those may still contain trace amounts of THC, sometimes by accident.
Two important questions will determine whether your CBD product is legally protected: Was this derived from hemp or from marijuana? and What is its concentration of THC?
Know its origin
CBD can be derived from two major sources: hemp (totally legal) or marijuana (legality differs by state).
Traveling with hemp-based CBD can be fine. That’s because the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (“Farm Bill”) removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, and in late 2019, the USDA affirmed that you have the right to transport hemp-based CBD across state lines.
Before you travel with marijuana-derived CBD, check the legality of medical marijuana at the state you’re visiting. A majority of American states have legalized it, so that gives you protection at the state level, so you shouldn’t encounter issues as long as you don’t pass through other states that ban it.
Will the TSA care?
There’s one more factor you must consider when traveling with CBD oil: the trace amounts of THC it contains.
The TSA’s official site says CBD oils “remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA.”
So according to the TSA, you may travel with CBD if its THC content is under that 0.3% threshold. (And, of course, if the amount you’re carrying conforms to the usual 3-ounce limit that applies to all liquids and lotions.)
The TSA says it’s not interested in policing illegal drugs. It’s concerned about passenger safety, so it’s not going to search your bags for drugs. But if its agents do happen to come across any illegal substance in the course of normal screening, they still might refer you to the police.
It may be legal federally, but you might have to deal with zealous local officers who are keen to enforce their state’s tighter rules. In 2019, a 69-year-old woman was arrested by a sheriff deputy at the gates of a Disney World park as she tried to enter with her family. The CBD oil that she used to soothe her arthritis tested positive for THC content despite the fact its label claimed it had none. While CBD is legal federally and she had a doctor’s note, the state of Florida had not caught up and the deputy wouldn’t let it go, so she spent 12 pointless hours in jail before she was released.
The furor was for nothing. Charges against her were dropped, and two months later, CBD was legalized in Florida. It’s unlikely her arrest would happen today, but the incident highlights how labeling standards and police education will be key until the law becomes clear and definite.
In the United States, law enforcement officers are often just as confused by the law, so if you’re polite and don’t look like a high-volume drug trafficker, they are more likely to look the other way—but still, that’s no guarantee.
For maximum confidence, make sure the product was obtained from industrial hemp and contains less than 0.3% of THC; that generally covers you on the more stringent federal level, and no state will bust you for a hemp-based product. Now that the USDA is monitoring THC content, labeling accuracy for trace amounts of THC should improve, too, so you’ll be much less likely to get caught out.
It’s all so confusing and needlessly stressful that we could use a good anti-anxiety treatment. Anyone know of something that would work?
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.