Can You Travel with CBD Oil? What’s the Best Kind?
Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.
After interning at SmarterTravel, Ashley joined the team full time in 2015. She’s lived on three continents, but still never knows where her next adventure will take her. She’s always searching for upcoming destination hotspots, secluded retreats, and hidden gems to share with the world.
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The Handy Item I Always Pack: “A reusable filtered water bottle—it saves you money, keeps you hydrated, and eliminates waste—win-win.”
Ultimate Bucket List Experience: “A week in a bamboo beach hut on India’s Andaman Islands.”
Travel Motto: “Travel light, often, and in good company.”
Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: “Window—best view in the house.”
You can get CBD oil in your coffee, buy CBD oil bath bombs, CBD oil lotions, and even CBD oil dog treats. It’s a buzz-worthy topic in the health and wellness space, but many travelers are left confused about its legality, especially when they’re considering taking certain products on a plane or traveling internationally.
First off, let’s define what CBD oil actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, CBD is “a nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp,” and that CBD oils contain cannabidiol. The types of oils that we’re referring to are oils derived from the hemp plant (not marijuana) and contain only a minimal amount (less than 0.3 percent) of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the intoxicating or psychoactive compound of the plant that makes users feel “high.” It’s common knowledge that this minimal amount of THC does not produce noticeably intoxicating side effects.
Thanks to some recent legal changes around CBD at the federal level, it’s becoming a bit more straightforward. Here’s what I learned about traveling with CBD oil after speaking with Sherri Tutkus, BSN-RN and founder/CEO of the GreenNurse Group, and Joshua Bauchner, a lawyer for the Canafarma Corporation.
Traveling with CBD Oil Domestically
The type of CBD oil that’s derived from hemp oil is what’s legal at a federal level (as of the 2018 Farm Bill) and therefore allowed to be taken across state borders, and, yes, on flights. Other CBD oils, like the type that’s derived from marijuana, are still illegal in some states—so it’s not recommended to take those types across state borders.
You can tell the difference between the two types of CBD oil by reading the product’s label and identifying the amount of THC in it. Only hemp-derived CBD oils (with THC levels below 0.3 percent) are legal to fly with or be taken across state borders in the U.S. It’s also important to note that while CBD oil is legal at the federal level, certain state laws vary in terms of possession of any type of CBD oil.
Here’s the status of flying with CBD oil in the U.S. as of January 2020, according to the TSA’s website:
“Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products, including some cannabidiol (CBD) oil, 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. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities.
“TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
Here’s a more light-hearted explanation from TSA’s Instagram:
Many travelers are left confused on CBD oil’s legality, especially when flying. Here’s what you need to know about traveling with CBD oil.
Is CBD Safe to Carry on a Plane?
Nov. 26, 2019 — Many air travelers who struggle with anxiety and jet lag have turned to CBD as a remedy, even as researchers are still investigating whether it works. Other travelers like to tote along CBD in skin care or beauty products.
But many also wonder: Will my CBD get past the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)?
Earlier this year, officials arrested a 71-year-old woman at the Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport in May after finding CBD oil in a carry-on. She spent two nights in jail.
While the TSA recently loosened up its regulations around CBD products, the answer is still: It depends.
Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products including cannabidiol (CBD) oil are still illegal under federal law and won’t make it through government screening, says Carrie Harmon, a TSA spokesperson. But CBD products made from hemp, which contain no more than 0.3% THC, are legal under the Farm Bill of 2018. THC is the component in marijuana that produces a “high.”
In addition, the FDA recently warned companies that adding CBD to foods or dietary supplements is illegal because it has not been declared to be GRAS, or generally recognized as safe.
The TSA’s updated regulations allow passengers to legally bring these products on board:
- Medical marijuana
- Products that contain no more than 0.3% THC
- FDA-approved products. The only one currently approved is Epidiolex (cannabidiol), which treats two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
At the Airport
Once at the TSA checkpoint, what can CBD-toting travelers expect? According to the TSA, screening is focused on security and protecting passenger safety. “TSA security officers don’t search for marijuana or cannabis-infused products. However, in the event a substance that appears illegal is discovered during security screening, TSA officers will refer the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement officers then follow their own procedures.”
And no, there won’t be a TSA dog sniffing your luggage or purse. “TSA K9s only search for explosives and explosive components,” Harmon says.
Who gets the final word? The TSA website posts: The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
The other complicating factor is that some states may have more restrictive laws regarding CBD. In Virginia, for example, you can only purchase CBD with a prescription. And CBD of any type is not allowed in dietary supplements or food, the FDA says.
Here’s what experts suggest:
If you are traveling with medical marijuana or an FDA-approved drug, take your prescription with you in case there are any questions. Keep the marijuana and the prescription drug in original packaging.
If you have CBD products, find the product’s certificate of analysis, or CoA.
CoAs are listed on manufacturer’s websites. Or, once the product is purchased, the QR code on the label should be scannable, taking customers to the product’s webpage and the CoA. A CoA will list the percent of CBD and other cannabinoids, when it was tested, and the name of the lab that tested it (outside labs are preferred to company testing, experts say.)
“Print a copy of the certificate of analysis (or CoA) of the CBD product you are carrying so you have formal documentation of what that product is,” says Alex Wolfe, vice-president of business development for ShopCBD.com, an online specialty store representing 32 companies that sell hemp-derived products.
“Any good brand should be able to show you the CoA,” agrees Gary Avetisyan, who is co-owner of two Topikal stores in the Los Angeles area selling CBD products. That way, he says, it will be clear there is no THC or it is below the required 0.3%.
Besides packing the CoA, ”print out the latest regulations that TSA has posted, or have the link to the latest regulations on your phone,” Wolfe suggests. That way, if you encounter a new TSA agent or one unfamiliar with all the regulations, you have support.
If the anxiety of wondering whether you will get through TSA with your CBD is too overwhelming, it might be better to check out whether it’s legal at your destination and simply buy it there. One source for state laws on marijuana, CBD, and hemp is norml.org.
Another option is to shop online or at a store before the trip, then ship the CBD to your destination, Avetisyan says.
Los Angeles attorney Griffen Thorne, who is familiar with cannabis issues, urges passengers to be cautious. He recommends not taking CBD on international flights.
“The laws in the jurisdiction you are flying to can be drastically different. Flying domestically with a CBD product is obviously less of a risk, but I still think there are risks.” Not everyone is up to date on the new TSA stance, he says. Hemp is not a controlled substance federally, he says, but people transporting it across state lines get pulled over. Law enforcement officials are not all familiar with the differences between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis-derived CBD.
As for marijuana, medical or recreational, the best advice, he says, is ”leave it all at home” if you’re flying, since it remains a Schedule I drug on the federal level.
Carrie Harmon, TSA spokesperson.
TSA: “Medical Marijuana.”
Gary Avetisyan, co-owner, Topikal CBD, Los Angeles.
Alex Wolfe, spokesperson, ShopCBD.com.
NBCDFW.com: “Traveling Grandmother Jailed for CBD Oil: ‘I Slept on the Floor… Next to the Toilet.’”
Citizen Truth: “What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis (COA) (And How to Read It).”
Marijuana Policy Project.
TravelLatte: “Traveling with CBD.”
Brookings: “The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer.”
Griffen Thorne, attorney, Harris Bricken, Lost Angeles.
While some CBD products are now legal, what will happen if you carry them on a plane?