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Flying with CBD: Your TSA Guide to Airplane Travel

There are a lot of reasons why travelers would want to travel with CBD oil. It has many uses that are attractive to people on the go: it may calm anxieties if you’re worried about travel; it may help with sleep when dealing with jet lag; it may even relieve the aches and pains from sitting too long in a car or on a plane. And while some people used to take a Valium before a flight, they may now prefer to take CBD oil.

While it makes sense that you’d want to travel with CBD, is it legal? And if it is legal, is it even possible? What are the risks and what are the possible repercussions?

What’s the Difference Between “Cannabis”, “Hemp”, and “Marijuana”?

Let’s start off with the basics, because when discussing legality we’re going to need to have these words defined. Some people will often use these words interchangeably, but they are not one and the same.

Cannabis is a type of plant and has a few different varieties: indica, sativa, and ruderalis, and hybrid. Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants. Marijuana can be either indica or sativa, while hemp is cannabis sativa. To the untrained eye, you might mix these plants up, but scientists and growers can easily tell them apart due to certain characteristics.

The main difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of a certain compound (a cannabinoid) called Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is contained in both of these plants. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives you a high, and marijuana can contain as much as 40% THC. Hemp, on the other hand, contains only trace amounts, less than 0.3%. Hemp doesn’t make a user high with that percentage. 

CBD Oil is derived from hemp, and it therefore contains less than 0.3% THC.

Is CBD Legal or Not?

This is where things get tricky. In 2018, the Farm Bill passed which amended the Controlled Substances Act to exempt hemp from THC and marijuana, as long as it followed certain criteria. This means that CBD products (up to 0.3% THC) are federally legal.

But because THC remains illegal federally, and in most states, certain places have stricter rules regarding CBD (because, as mentioned, CBD contains trace amounts of THC). In some states, CBD cannot have any THC at all, not even the trace amounts, except for medical use. Therefore, a Broad Spectrum or CBD Isolate product may be safest because those will both be THC-Free.

The Food and Drug Administration further complicates matters by restricting the addition of CBD in foods, beverages, or cosmetics, regardless of THC levels.

traveling with CBD

Can I Take CBD on an Airplane?

This is still a foggy area, not because of laws, but because of confusion among law enforcement. As recently as May 2019, an interview with a representative of the TSA said “Possession of marijuana and cannabis-infused products, such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil, is illegal under federal law. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and cannabis-infused products.”

That quote is, as we’ve described, not true. Hemp-based CBD oil is allowed under federal law as long as it stays under 0.3% THC. But you can see why there is trepidation for CBD users to try to travel with CBD. Many would rather not deal with the possibility of a meddling TSA and just go without.

If you do intend to travel with CBD oil products, it would be wise to bring with you a copy of the certificate of analysis, which shows the THC levels. And, of course, if you’re bringing CBD-based prescription medication, such as Epidiolex for seizures, bring your prescription and relevant documentation.

Ultimately what it comes down to is knowing the law, both of the state you are in and the state to which you are traveling (as well as the federal law, because federal law applies once you’re through the security gates). It also comes down to what you’re willing to argue with law enforcement about, and whether you trust your proper documentation to have the desired effect.

For now, however, it’s still a hazy mess.

Can I Travel Outside the United States with CBD?

Traveling outside the United States adds another layer of difficulty. You must understand the laws of the country or countries to which you’re traveling. Many countries have much stricter laws regarding even hemp-based CBD. 

Rules for cruises are an additional question. Some cruise lines have a blanket ban on CBD products, so it’s smart to check each line’s policies prior to boarding. 

traveling with CBD

Tips For Traveling with CBD Oil

If you’re going to travel with CBD oil, it would be wise to follow the 3-1-1 rule: For all gels, creams, lotions, tinctures, and other liquids, you should follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, which is that all passengers are limited to a single quart bag of liquids, gels and aerosols, all of which must be less than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. It also might be easier to travel with a Broad Spectrum product or a topical product.

Conclusion

Although hemp-based CBD oil is federally legal according to the farm bill, there is confusion among many people, including law enforcement, about the products and their legality. There are also different laws in different states and what is legal in one state, like Vermont, might be illegal in another, like Idaho.

So although CBD has many benefits for the wellness of travelers, be aware that taking CBD with you on your trip might get you questioned by the TSA or Customs. Bring the certificate of analysis, or, if necessary, your prescription.

Be safe, and happy travels!