The Best Way to Travel With Marijuana (And Not Get Caught)
So you want to bring your pot on vacation. Of course you do!
Even if you happen to live in a state that legalized medical or recreational marijuana, there’s a good chance that the place you’re traveling might not be so progressive. Plus, there’s the tricky issue of getting your goodies from point A to point B. The last thing anyone wants is to get smacked with a giant fine — or jail time.
Doctor’s hand holding medical marijuana | megaflopp/iStock/Getty Images
Traveling with marijuana doesn’t have to be complicated. The best way to avoid getting caught? Be cool, man. Times are changing, and a little marijuana isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Right now, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. A 2017 Gallup poll shows that 64% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana.
Editor’s note: Federal law prohibits transporting marijuana by plane or by car. By doing so, you are taking a major risk and breaking the law. You do so at your own risk.
How much weed can you fly with?
The key to traveling with marijuana is simple: don’t be greedy. Packing a little jar of weed isn’t going to set off any alarm bells, but transporting several pounds it almost guaranteed to get you busted. Practice self-control and use your common sense. Typically, one-eighth or less will slide past security just fine.
The best place to hide your weed is in your carry on.
Trying to check your weed in your bag is a terrible idea. You could become the target of a random bag search and the results would be disastrous.
Instead, keep your small stash in your carry-on and hope for the best. Typically, TSA agents are looking for bombs and liquid bombs, which is why the rules for transporting liquids are so strict. They’re not after your weed — they just want to keep everyone safe on the plane.
Rolling marijuana into a joint | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Here’s how to hide weed when you fly:
- Joints — Put them in a pack of cigarettes with regular tobacco sticks.
- Bud — Hide it in a bottle of ibuprofen underneath the pills and cotton.
- Edibles — These are the easiest thing to fly with. Gummies can go in a gummy bear bag. Cookies can go in a Chips Ahoy package. You get the picture!
- Wax and oil — You can hide these in candy bags also, just be sure any liquids are less than 3 ounces.
The most important thing about getting through security with marijuana is to make sure everything complies with the rule for liquids. It’s not a guaranteed way to get your stuff through, but it’s your best chance for sliding past TSA undetected.
You can sneak your weed through airport security without getting caught
Getting weed through airport security is a lot easier than you even realize. There are stories of people traveling with marijuana who forgot they had it and somehow breezed right past TSA without getting caught — even though they didn’t try to hide it!
Here’s the other thing that should make you feel better about traveling with marijuana: even if you do get caught, no one is calling the DEA and putting you in jail (probably). TSA is on the lookout for bombs and weapons, not a little dimebag of bud.
What happens when you get caught with weed on a plane?
If you get caught, the worst that will happen is security will make you toss your marijuana in the trash with your unauthorized yogurt and then proceed through the line.
There is a chance that you could be referred to law enforcement and may even miss your flight, though. It’s best to proceed with caution and assume that this might happen. Of course, traveling to and from states with more lenient marijuana laws makes a big difference. The TSA agents in Denver are a lot less likely to care about your weed compared to other places.
A TSA agent searches a bag. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Can airport scanners see your weed?
The thing about airport scanners is that they’re checking for very specific contraband — weapons, bomb materials, and excessive liquids which may be liquid bombs. They are not hunting for drugs.
There is no way for the scanners to detect and identify each individual item in your bag. If you take the proper precautions to camouflage your stash, chances are it will sail right through the security scanners as long as it complies with TSA guidelines.
It’s a real risk to drive with weed.
The weirdest thing about traveling with marijuana is that it’s easier to transport it via plane than it is to drive around with it. Part of the problem is that police officers often target out-of-state plates — especially from states with legalized marijuana.
If you do choose to bring your weed in the car on your road trip, stick with gummies or vape pens so the smell doesn’t give you away. But if at all possible, skip driving with your stuff and just buy it when you reach your destination instead.
Here's how to bring weed onto your vacation.
How to travel with cannabis in the car
Driving with cannabis in the car is a funny thing in terms of the letter of the law. A bag in the front seat could get you a fine or worse, even in an adult-use state. Almost two dozen other states are medical cannabis-only, and open container laws can vary between them, too.
So where should you store it? For starters, ask yourself how you would transport legal alcohol.
“So much of the regulation policy for cannabis is done through the filter of alcohol regulation.”
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director, NORML
“I just tell people, put it in your trunk, like a bottle of wine,” says Ngaio Bealum, an actor/comedian and longtime cannabis advocate who has transported cannabis throughout the US over the course of many decades.
It turns out the trunk isn’t a bad idea when it comes to satisfying the law in most states.
“So much of the regulation policy for cannabis is done through the filter of alcohol regulation,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see this issue debated in other legal states.”
The issue may get debated more in the future, but for now it’s important to know current laws in each state to avoid a brush with the police you never saw coming. So, here are the basics on driving with cannabis in each of the 10 recreational cannabis states plus the District of Columbia.
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Alaska cannabis transportation laws
Keep the cannabis in the trunk if you’re driving in Alaska, especially Anchorage, where the city assembly extended its open container laws to cannabis in 2016. But nearly two years after it was legalized, Alaska still has no set limit for the amount of cannabis that can be in your system while driving. This means if you get pulled over and are suspected of being under the influence, you’d better do an exemplary job of following the officer’s instructions during the field sobriety test.
California cannabis transportation laws
California Vehicle Code 23222(b) is California’s “open container” law, which makes it unlawful to drive with any cannabis not in a container, or in an opened container. Similarly, California Business and Professions Code 26120 requires retailers to label cannabis products and place them in tamper-evident, child-resistant packaging with unique tracking identifiers.
California Highway Patrol Sergeant Glen Glaser said CHP officers are trained to recognize these uniform codes and enforce them. Glaser, who oversees the CHP’s Drug Recognition Evaluator Program, said the best way to avoid explaining a broken seal to an officer is just to store all cannabis in the trunk.
“The trickier part is the edibles that are on a big rise. How are officers going to determine what is and isn’t an edible?” Glaser said. “That’s where you’re going to have to fall back on sound professional judgement.”
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Colorado cannabis transportation laws
Colorado law specifies drivers with five nanograms of active THC in their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence, though law enforcement officers are more likely to base arrests on observed impairment.
Colorado’s open container law makes it illegal to have cannabis in the passenger area of a vehicle if it’s in an open container, container with a broken seal, or if there is evidence that cannabis has been consumed. It’s also illegal to consume cannabis on any public roadway, and many Colorado Law Enforcement Officer have received advanced training in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE).
Maine cannabis transportation laws
Under Maine law, individuals 21 years of age or older are allowed to transport up to 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of cannabis so long as the cannabis is kept sealed in a childproof container at all times in the vehicle.
Massachusetts cannabis transportation laws
Driving with cannabis openly accessible in a vehicle is seen like having an open beer in the cup holder, and an open container of cannabis carries a civil fine of $500. All cannabis must be kept in a sealed container during transport. If the seal is broken, the cannabis must be kept in a car’s locked glove box or trunk.
A previous Massachusetts court case also confirmed that the “mere odor of burnt cannabis is insufficient cause to stop a motor vehicle.” Since cannabis is legal, smelling like it does not mean any crime took place. It’s another consumer protection against unlawful discrimination.
Michigan cannabis transportation laws
Michigan legalized recreational cannabis in November 2018. The new law makes transporting recreational cannabis legal if the product is in a “sealed” and “labeled” package in the trunk of the vehicle.
Nevada cannabis transportation laws
Cannabis in the car should be in a sealed container away from the driver and any minor passengers. Failure to do so could result in an open container fine. Las Vegas is also a major destination point, which makes it important to point out that it’s illegal to take cannabis across state lines even if the next destination has legal cannabis laws.
Nevada has historically been a pot-unfriendly state in terms of the law, and it’s unclear how open container laws may vary in enforcement throughout the remote parts of the state.
“Almost everything has to do with the individual personality of the officer,” says Bealum. He related a story from several years ago when he got pulled over in Nevada. “He handcuffed me and searched the entire entire car—that was fun.”
He said the officer threatened him with jail over cannabis he found in the trunk, but then he pulled back and just wrote him a ticket for expired vehicle tags. Bealum didn’t protest, saying, “Do you really want to spend the weekend in jail in Winnemucca?”
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Oregon cannabis transportation laws
Per Oregon law (ORS 475B.245), a person the age of 21 or older may transport up to one ounce of cannabis in a public place, but details go hazy after that.
“The statute doesn’t specify how to transport the cannabis,” says Timothy Fox with the Oregon State Police.
One good rule of the road—and life really—is to ask yourself, “How would this behavior look from the perspective of a judge or a jury?” Act accordingly.
Vermont cannabis transportation laws
Under Act 86 passed in 2018, a person operating a vehicle on a public highway may not possess any cannabis in the passenger area of the vehicle, defined as any area readily accessible to the operator or passengers while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment. In a vehicle not equipped with a trunk, the area behind the last upright seat could suffice. Violators are fined $500—a steep price compared to the $25 penalty for an open container of alcohol. Vermont’s limits are also strict: up to one ounce of cannabis or five grams of concentrate is allowed.
Washington cannabis transportation laws
Washington is specific about its cannabis transport laws. Cannabis must be stored in the trunk of the vehicle, in some other area of the vehicle not normally occupied or directly accessible by the driver or passengers if the vehicle does not have a trunk, or in a package, container, or receptacle that has not been opened or the seal broken or contents partially removed. A center compartment or glove compartment is not good enough.
Washington, DC cannabis transportation laws
You can possess or transport cannabis weighing less than two ounces, but here’s a buzzkill: federal officers can arrest you under federal law at any time for any amount of cannabis. For example, the US Park Police can arrest a person for possessing cannabis in the trunk of their car while at any National Park Service land.
Here's how to safely transport your cannabis from point A to point B without breaking any rules in the ten legalization states.