Can You Take Medicinal Cannabis with You on Vacation?

Stephen Andrews
22 Jul 2023

The short answer is: it really depends where you’re going for a vacation. And the other short answer is: it can be complicated. If you have a doctor’s prescription or recommendation for the medical use of cannabis, it’s probably a good idea to have it with you everywhere you travel. Although, remember that there are destinations in the world that do not distinguish between recreational and medicinal use of cannabis, and there are heavy penalties for it.

The recent case of basketball player Brittney Griner is a vivid reminder that you should be very cautious and think very carefully if you should take your cannabis medicine on your international travel. Griner was arrested and jailed in Russia after custom officers found vape pens in her luggage. She claimed that the cannabis was prescribed to her by a doctor, but that didn’t justify anything for the officers at the airport. 

Anyhow, you don’t have to travel all the way to Russia to get in trouble because you are carrying weed with you. Problems can happen much closer to home, even if the cannabis is for medicinal use only and if you have doctor’s approval. Even if you are American model Gigi Hadid, traveling on a private jet. Hadid was recently arrested in the Cayman Islands over cannabis possession. She reportedly legally purchased cannabis in New York “with a medical license.” Still, she was charged for “the importation of marijuana and importation of utensils used for the consumption of marijuana,” thus she had to pay a fine of $1,200. 

Traveling within the United States also carries the risk of legal trouble if you have marijuana in your luggage. Most states do have medical cannabis programs in place, but the federal prohibition on marijuana is still here. Regulation in legal states is crafted in such a way that, if you purchase legal weed for any reason, for example in California — you cannot take it away with you outside the state, or outside California. Trying to cross state lines with marijuana on you is potentially a big legal trouble. 

When is it Legal to Travel with Medicinal Cannabis in the US?

Traveling within the United States with medicinal cannabis is legal if a reciprocity program exists. So, your best bet for a cannabis care-free vacation somewhere in the US is if the state you are traveling to has such a program in place. States with medical marijuana card reciprocity recognize and adhere to each other’s laws, therefore, if you have a valid MMJ card, you can probably use it in a reciprocal state. 

However, not all states with a medical cannabis program have installed reciprocity. The Illinois Department of Public Health has prepared a nice infographic where you can see which are those states, i.e., see which states allow patients with a valid MMJ card in one state to be able to buy, consume, and have medical cannabis on their person when they are in another state. Still, make sure you inquire more information on this by browsing other state websites. 

There are also a few more things that you probably need to do so that all goes well. First, check to see if you must sign up for your destination state’s medical marijuana program so you can use medical cannabis there legally. You might have to pay a small fee for registration and you probably have to do the registration in advance, like a month before travel. 

Lastly, be aware of possession limits. You may be allowed to possess many ounces of medicinal cannabis at home, but in another state you will probably be restricted to an ounce or so, despite that you have a valid MMJ card. 

Can You Take Cannabis at Airports?

While TSA agents will not actively look for medicinal cannabis or other substances in your luggage, it might happen and they are required to report any suspicious finds to the local law enforcement. 

In addition, some major airlines like American Airlines have a policy that bans all marijuana (including for medical use) from flights. A statement on the airliner’s website says the following: “Although American is aware of various state laws that allow recreational or medicinal marijuana possession, the TSA has stated that possession of marijuana, even medical marijuana, is illegal under federal law and that it will refer passengers traveling with marijuana to law enforcement authorities. Accordingly, American does not allow passenger to transport marijuana on our flights. Anyone traveling with or transporting marijuana on American flights does at their own risk.” 

In sum, air travel is one of the modes of transport that carries the most legal risks with medicinal cannabis. You just might be better off if you leave all your MMJ at home when you head for your flight, or find an alternative mode of transport to reach your destination.  

Can you take medicinal cannabis with you on vacation?
If you decide to carry medicinal cannabis with you on your vacation, and you're confident that it will pose no legal trouble, make sure that the cannabis is in its original package with a label on it.

Can You Vacation Internationally with Medical Cannabis? 

There are countries in the world where you would rather not get caught carrying any marijuana at all. Not a chunk. Not a crumb. Not a single vape pen. The border officers will not care if it’s for your medicinal use and whether you have a prescription or certificate for it. 

Cannabis can be a problem everywhere you travel. Even when you visit a country where cannabis consumption is greatly tolerated. For example, if you carry more than five grams of cannabis and don’t have a medical document with you when you arrive in a country such as the Netherlands, there’s a risk of penalty. 

Hate to say it, but the best advice for someone who wants to go on a vacation abroad and take medicinal cannabis with them. The best advice is don’t take it. If your health seriously depends on a treatment, try to find something that, if possible, can substitute cannabis. 

How to Store Medical Cannabis When You Travel?

Given that it’s all clear and you are confident that you will have no problems if you carry medicinal cannabis with you on your holiday or international travel, then it’s recommended to keep the weed in its original packaging. It could be a problem if you transport cannabis in a packaging that does not have any label that proves it was purchased from a legal dispensary. If you are stopped by officers, you will have to explain where your cannabis comes from and answer many questions. It’s also good that the cannabis is stored in a zippered compartment in your luggage, together with your MMJ card and any other papers that certify you are a medicinal user. 

Here’s also a checklist of things to be aware of before you travel anywhere with a stash of medicinal cannabis: 

  • Make sure that your MMJ card has not expired.
  • The expiration date of your MMJ is not within the next 30 days. 
  • Have your doctor’s certificate or recommendation with you.
  • Keep your MMJ card with you at all times.
  • Keep your medical marijuana (and other prescription medicines) in the original packaging. 
  • Have your physicians’ phone number and other contact info at hand.
  • Inform your lawyer about your travel plans and let them know you might contact them if needed. 

Final words: It’s best to avoid traveling or vacationing carrying medicinal cannabis with you, especially in places where they do not have reciprocity programs or where generally the laws are not in favor of cannabis. You can google this information at official government websites or, if it’s foreign country you’re traveling to, inquire more information by contacting embassy staff there. If it’s too much of a risk to carry medicinal cannabis, check with a your doctor if you can temporarily substitute cannabis with other medicines that can offer some form of relief for the same health condition. 

Stephen Andrews