Are you thinking about taking your CBD tinctures, CBD topicals or CBD vape pens on your next vacation or business trip? At Curaleaf Hemp, we are often asked if it’s legal to bring CBD on airplanes. Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer. CBD is 100% illegal in South Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho but legal everywhere else. But because CBD is such a new product that is often (and incorrectly) placed in the same category as marijuana by local law enforcement. It’s not surprising that there’s a lot of confusion out there.
Sadly, nowhere is the confusion more evident than the Transportation Security Administration’s own policy. Here’s the policy as it appears on the TSA website:
Do you see the problem?
1. According to the TSA, CBD is classified as medical marijuana which is illegal under federal law.
Despite the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018 which made it legal for industrial hemp to be cultivated in all states, the same protection does not apply to non-intoxicating CBD derived from hemp plants. Wrong or not, the TSA is still bound by the laws of the federal government which views CBD in the same category as medical marijuana.
Does that mean you should not attempt to bring CBD onto a plane? Not necessarily. We’ll get to the reason why in a minute but first, let’s explore another interesting point in the TSA policy:
2. TSA security officers do not screen for medical marijuana or other illegal drugs
Does this mean you can slide your vape pen next to the fountain pen in your brief case or pack your tincture alongside your travel size shampoo, toothpaste and shaving cream without a care in the world? Not at all. If the TSA agent sees something else in your bag that requires a search or you’re randomly selected to have your bag inspected, you put yourself at risk of getting caught with a substance that is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government and its agencies.
3. What happens if a TSA agent finds CBD in your carry on or checked bag?
While the TSA policy above is clear about CBD oil being illegal, we wanted to be 100% sure this rule applies to non-intoxicating CBD oil derived from hemp plant. To get some clarity, we called 866-289-9673 and spoke with Carissa at the Transportation Security Administration. Carissa’s Agent ID is 59937 and she couldn’t have been nicer. First, we asked Carissa if a person can be arrested for carrying CBD at an airport. Carissa wanted to be sure we knew was that despite popular myth, TSA agents do NOT have the authority to make arrests of any kind. Upon discovering CBD either in a carry on or in a checked bag, what a TSA agent will do is call local law enforcement for assistance.
4. What happens when TSA contacts local law enforcement about the CBD in your carry on or checked bag?
You’re going to be delayed. Depending on how far the nearest police station is from the airport or where the closest officer in the area is patrolling, you should expect at least a 20-minute wait before the officer even arrives. From there, Carissa from the TSA says it’s entirely up to the responding officer to decide if you’ve broken the law. If the local officer understands the local law, you will be free to keep your CBD and board your plane.
That’s great news, but since CBD is so new and the distinction is still unclear between CBD derived from hemp and CBD derived from marijuana (which still has less than 3% THC), getting caught with CBD at the airport puts you at risk for arrest. This is true even if you have a recommendation from your doctor or a medical marijuana card. You may have recently heard the story of the great grandmother from North Carolina who was arrested at Disney World for possessing CBD oil. While the charges against Hester Burkhalter were eventually dropped, the confusion about the legal status of CBD with local law enforcement remains.
5. What should you do if you don’t want to go without your CBD but you don’t want to put yourself at risk for getting arrested?
Provided you’re not traveling to South Dakota, Nebraska or Idaho, it’s perfectly legal to have your CBD shipped to your hotel or mailed as a Package Intercept as a Hold For Pickup at the post office in the city or town where you’ll be staying. This extra service will cost you but it’s a lot cheaper than missing a flight and paying a lawyer.
Are you still confused about whether or not you should try to bring CBD on a plane? You’re not alone. Carissa at the TSA said she gets calls every day from people asking the same question. To recap, if you try to bring CBD on a plane, you need to be prepared for one of three different scenarios:
- Your CBD blends with your other toiletries and is not detected by the TSA agent so you and your bag pass through the security checkpoint without issue or delay.
- The TSA agent discovers your CBD and calls local law enforcement which requires you to wait for an officer to arrive which puts you at risk for missing your flight.
- The local law enforcement officer mistakenly classifies your CBD as marijuana and places you under arrest. In addition to missing your flight, you’ll incur legal fees and miss time from work to plea your case.
Only you can decide if bringing CBD on a plane is worth the risk. In the meantime, we’ll continue following the ever-changing laws and updating you on how they affect when and where you can safely travel with CBD.