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Travelling with Cannabis in Canada and Abroad

By AMA Staff

With cannabis now legal across Canada, restrictions around its purchase, possession and use have significantly eased. But there are still important rules when it comes to travelling with cannabis, both within and outside of our pro-marijuana country. Be sure you know what’s allowed and the risks involved before you travel—and keep in mind that some rules are still in flux.

As of October 17, 2018, Canadians who are 18 or older are legally allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis (or the equivalent in another form). However, each province and territory has the flexibility to set its own possession limits and age minimums. That means interprovincial travel could be tricky. Ideally, keep your marijuana within the province or territory where you buy it; otherwise be aware that possession laws may differ from Alberta to Ontario to Nova Scotia, with penalties ranging from a fine to up to five years in jail. And even if you’re planning a road trip in your home province, make sure your cannabis is secured in closed packaging and not within reach of the driver or occupants. Like alcohol, marijuana should be locked in the trunk of your vehicle.

Be cautious, too, if you’re considering flying with recreational marijuana. To date, there are no guidelines on how to fly with marijuana in Canada. It’s unclear if you should pack it in your carry-on or keep it in your checked luggage, so give yourself extra screening time at the airport.

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Thinking of getting stoned before getting on a plane? Think again. As is the case with alcohol impairment, airlines can remove you from a flight if they think you’re a safety risk or that you might disturb others. Impairment is impairment.

“Taking cannabis products across Canada’s international borders is illegal, including medical marijuana, and remains illegal with the new law coming into effect,” says Christine Langlois, senior adviser and spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. This is true even if you’re travelling to a place where cannabis is also legalized. For example, marijuana is legal in Washington state but still banned federally in the United States; carrying cannabis from, say, Vancouver to Seattle will continue to be a criminal offence, even if you have a prescription for medical marijuana.

If you’re caught entering the U.S. with marijuana, you could be fined, arrested, prosecuted and barred from entering the country for life. Just admitting you’ve used marijuana in the past, or being involved in the legal cannabis trade in Canada, could result in you being denied entry to the States. If you are barred, you can apply to Homeland Security for a U.S. entry waiver, but it’s expensive and can take more than a year to receive—and approval isn’t guaranteed.

Likewise, if you travel with cannabis from Canada to any other country, you’ll be subject to that country’s laws, and the Canadian government won’t be able to intervene on your behalf.

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It remains illegal to bring cannabis across the border, in any amount, whether or not it’s for medical purposes, and even if it’s brought in from another country where the drug is also legal. That’s because the federal government has put in place strict regulations on the production, distribution and sale of cannabis in Canada.

As mentioned above, it will still be illegal to transport cannabis across national borders, even with a prescription. Within Canada, however, a medical prescription provides you with a little more leeway when it comes to interprovincial air travel. If you are medically authorized to possess more cannabis than the 30-gram recreational limit, you should be able to fly in Canada with that greater amount. Keep it in your carry-on luggage, along with documentation demonstrating your official status as a medical-marijuana patient. And allow for more time at security checkpoints, as screening staff will likely have to verify your paperwork.