Traveling with CBD oil is a lot safer than it used to be. Thanks to recent legislation, it’s largely considered legal at the federal level, and for most people, that’s enough of a green light. Unfortunately, state laws don’t always agree with federal law, and when that happens, consumers can get caught in the middle. Before you book your plane tickets or make hotel reservations, make sure you understand what including CBD in your trip planning means, and what you need to consider before transporting CBD across state lines.
TRANSPORTING CBD ACROSS STATE LINES: THE COMPLEX LEGAL HISTORY OF HEMP
For centuries, hemp has been an important crop for humans. A member of the cannabis family –like its close relative marijuana– hemp has provided fiber for textiles and paper, oil for cooking and heating, and has been used to promote health and wellness. Its cultivation was so important that many of America’s founding fathers not only grew it themselves but viewed it as a cash crop that all patriotic American farmers should be involved with. It was not until the 1930s that it began to get a bad reputation that would continue to impact use, possession, and traveling with CBD oil nearly a hundred years later.
In the early part of the 20th century, established industries concerned over hemp’s potential to impact their profits began a smear campaign to associate hemp with marijuana and convince America that all cannabis was addictive, turned people into savages, and highly dangerous. The hemp industry began to steadily decline and came to a crashing halt with the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Cannabis was listed as a schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it had no therapeutic value and was considered highly addictive.
State laws at the time –and in most cases, to this day– largely mirrored their federal equivalents, therefore, limiting the transporting of CBD across state lines. States added cannabis to their legislative lists of prohibited substances. While this effectively copied the federal stance, the language used did not always adhere to the federal language. At the time, no one was concerned with how it would affect traveling with CBD oil.
Over time, as increased, more and more people began to grow comfortable with the idea of cannabis as a curative solution to a variety of conditions. Proponents for oil and other products sought the right to use marijuana medically instead of, or in conjunction with, often expensive and sometimes dangerous pharmaceuticals. As states began to assert their rights to allow medical marijuana within their borders, people looking for cannabis benefits without the high of THC began exploring industrial hemp as a path toward legal cannabinoid support. With the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill and its 2018 successor, hemp finally returned to legality at the federal level.
Under the Farm Bill of 2018, industrial hemp was defined as any Cannabis sativa L. plant with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less by dry weight. It specified that industrial hemp was not a controlled substance and that transporting hemp and CBD across state lines for commercial purposes could not be impeded by states. The act codified the USDA’s responsibility to oversee hemp crops while giving FDA regulatory authority over derivative products. To the layperson, it may sound like traveling with CBD oil shouldn’t be a problem, and it’s not — with the federal government.
CONFUSING LANGUAGE CONFUSES THE ISSUE
Because each state adopted legislation that utilized their wording, the results of the legalization of hemp at the federal level have had inconsistent effects on state laws. While some states simply adopted the same path as the federal legislature, others specified that marijuana, cannabis, or THC were prohibited, therefore limiting the transport of CBD across their state lines. This has led to confusion in some areas among federal authorities, state lawmakers, police, district attorneys, attorneys general, and judges as to the legality of CBD in general, complicating traveling with CBD oil.
To provide a few examples of the legal miasma:
The TSA is responsible for keeping our airways safe. Part of their mission is the inspection of passengers and luggage passing through airports to ensure they aren’t carrying dangerous items, illicit substances, and items deemed unsafe for air travel. While a federal agency, their rules for traveling across state lines with hemp-derived CBD were not updated after the December passage of the 2018 Farm Bill until May of 2019. This meant that CBD was still considered marijuana, illegal to fly with, and passengers were subject to arrest by local law enforcement officers if found to be traveling with CBD oil.
In Oklahoma, a large shipment of harvested industrial hemp plants was seized by police a month after the Farm Bill’s passage. Despite its federally legal status, police were unsure how to handle the hemp shipment, which to their untrained eyes looked like marijuana. Trace amounts of THC further complicated the matter, even though they were well within federal guidelines. While the Farm Bill specifically addresses commercially transporting CBD and hemp across state lines, two drivers and two company executives were arrested.
has stated that CBD is still illegal in the state, as their laws specify cannabis plants are illegal under two separate statutes; however, one statute seems to exempt fibers and oils from this ban. Attempts at a legislative fix have continuously stalled, leaving district attorneys to decide on prosecution using their discretion on a case-by-case basis. This leaves CBD users, even if just traveling with CBD oil through the state, in uncertain jeopardy.
If you’re going to be taking your hemp products with you, there are a few things you can do to limit your risk of running into problems while traveling with CBD across state lines:
Learn the laws for the states you will travel through and to. Finding out whether CBD is legal or not is far better than finding out on the side of the highway on your trip. Most states are offering clarifying information from their attorney general that should help you understand their particular laws.
Choose CBD products that are proven to be THC-free. Especially important when traveling with CBD oil through states with anti-THC legislation, look for products that are not only clearly labeled as 0% THC, but also have certificates of analysis from a third party. That way, if you are questioned about your CBD, you have documentation proving you comply.
Only carry a reasonable amount of CBD while traveling across state lines. You will face far fewer problems if you’re caught in a problematic jurisdiction with a tincture bottle than if you have a suitcase full of tincture bottles. This not only helps position you as using it only for wellness, but it limits the chance that increased quantities will lead to higher penalties.
Keep your CBD out of sight and out of mind. Do not purchase a “stash” to hide your CBD in while traveling with CBD oil, as this looks like you may be trying to avoid the law, but don’t leave a bottle of CBD gummies in your car’s cup holder either. Keep your CBD products in a purse, travel bag, suitcase, or glove compartment. That way it is still accessible with minimal trouble if you need it, but it’s less likely to draw attention and scrutiny.
Don’t argue with the authorities. By all means assert the legality of your products to the best of your knowledge, but in the end, it is far better to replace a bottle at your destination than to find someone to bail you out because a situation escalated. Be respectful. Explain your stance that you believed it to be legal both federally and under state laws (because you researched those, right?), that you were traveling with your CBD oil for responsible personal wellness use, and accept that continuing your vacation is easier without handcuffs.
In many cases, transporting CBD across state lines is neither illegal or stressful. These tips are not intended to encourage you to ignore or break rules and regulations related to CBD; rather, they’re here to help ensure you’re complying and traveling with your CBD in a responsible manner that should let you ensure a relaxing, anxiety-free trip.
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