As of March 2020, 11 states legalized weed completely and 22 more allow for medical marijuana. The march towards cannabis legalization continues, and it is easy to envision a not too distant future where the drug is legalized completely in the United States.
However, transporting weed across state lines, let alone taking it to another country, can put you in legal trouble if you do not prepare properly. Here are some of the key legal considerations to keep in mind, how to transport weed, and some minor tips for how to best store weed to begin with.
Rules and Penalties
Let us start with the obvious facts: while 33 states and Washington D.C. allow for legalized weed to some degree, that leaves 17 states which do not. The three largest states which ban marijuana completely are Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. Most people can thus figure out that transporting weed from a weed-legal state to one of these states is a bad idea.
But what is less obvious is that transporting from one weed-legal state to another weed-legal state, such as from Oregon to California or Vermont to Massachusetts, can also put you in serious legal trouble. The borders between those two states as well as the interstate highways can fall under federal jurisdiction and weed remains illegal federally. This applies to traveling by plane as well as by car.
What are the consequences if you get stopped and caught transporting marijuana from one state to another? That depends on how much you are carrying, whether it is your first offense, and the nature of the stop. The DEA officially states that even for a first offense, transporting less than 50 kg of marijuana can merit a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Even if a federal officer is in a good mood and chooses to let you go, your weed – and by extension, your money – will almost certainly be confiscated.
Storing and Transporting Weed
The harsh federal consequences mean that you really should not plan to go on a vacation to Colorado with the goal of bringing some of the goods back home. Furthermore, these restrictions mean that marijuana businesses like Harvest House of Cannabis cannot operate outside of their states, placing a shackle on the potential of the marijuana industry.
But while federal agents will ask questions if you smell like marijuana, they are generally not aggressively hunting for it. If you take some basic precautions while traveling, you should be able to transport small quantities across state lines for your personal enjoyment.
The first thing to note is that flying with weed is much safer than driving with it. Police officers will target out-of-state license plates, especially if it is from a state where marijuana is legal. And if you are in a state where marijuana is completely illegal, all the cop needs to do is claim that he smells marijuana and then he can search your car. If you are going to transport weed, take a plane. If you must drive, avoid marijuana products which give off any odor. Prioritize edibles and keep your stash in a closed space such as your glove box.
When flying, you should also take your weed in your carry-on instead of stowing it in your checked luggage, which can be randomly searched. Put any joints in a pill bottle or plastic bag mixed in with other things. Remember that TSA agents are looking for weapons and bombs, not drugs. You do not need to take excessive measures like infamous stories of drug smugglers transporting cocaine up various orifices. Do not wave it out in the open in your carry-on travel bag, and you should be fine.
Traveling to Different Countries
Marijuana legalization is a global movement, with countries such as Canada and Argentina having fully legalized weed. But while you can travel to these countries to conduct weed tourism, there are still restrictions against transportation outside of the country. Canada bans transporting any amount of cannabis across the border, even to countries or states where it has been decriminalized.
Unlike state lines where it can be okay to take the risk if you use proper precautions, transporting weed across international borders is too dangerous to attempt. Border agents have the right to search every inch of your car, person, and even your social media account if they find you suspicious. And if you find yourself with marijuana paraphernalia, you can be arrested or barred from ever entering the country.
Marijuana legalization is heading down the right path, but there is a long way towards full legalization. Even full legalization can come with stipulations on transporting weed across state or international borders. While you can lower the risks by taking certain precautions, understand that even transportation from one legal state to another can put you in jeopardy under the wrong circumstances.