CBD oil has fast risen in popularity as a general wellness product. But there’s also a large CBD user base consisting of those who are recommended CBD by physicians or vets. Both groups have reason to be worried about the recent spate of CBD related confiscations and arrests. This has lead many to ask if it is possible to fly with CBD. Thankfully, the TSA made a recent update to their website’s ‘What Can I Bring’ page over memorial day weekend. The update says that CBD is legal -in most cases. At a time when it’s already hard to parse through the many laws and regulations surrounding CBD, let’s break down the TSA statement.
The TSA changing rules for medical marijuana
The TSA changed the medical marijuana segment of ‘What Can I Bring?’. The agency changed the ‘no’ corresponding to medical marijuana to ‘yes (with special instructions)’. We’ll delve into these special instructions below.
Above is what is on the TSA page
As you can see, the change states that it is possible to fly with CBD.
Could you get arrested for CBD at an airport?
You could, but not because of the TSA. Hemp-derived CBD is now legal at the federal level since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, but state laws still vary on the matter. This means an arrest depends on a few things: local authority involvement as well as your flight origin and destination.
Here’s the good news though: Since CBD is legal under federal law, and the TSA is governed by federal law, for all intents and purposes, TSA doesn’t particularly care about CBD possession, as long as it’s produced in accordance with the Farm Bill. You can pack hemp-derived CBD or FDA-approved CBD oil in your carry on or checked in luggage. It is extremely unlike you will be arrested for CBD (hemp-derived) - and if you are, you can fight it in court.
However, marijuana and marijuana-derived CBD are still illegal under federal law and you can definitely get arrested for those. Moreover, the TSA will ‘report any suspected violations of the law’, which means they may not simply confiscate your marijuana, but might also have to report you to authorities for it.
You could find yourself in a tough spot if a TSA agent or police officer at the airport is unable to differentiate between hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD. If you’re caught with either, you could expect to get a little held up, at the very least.
Fly with CBD: What the TSA has to say
It is possible to fly with CBD if the product complies with the Farm Bill, then it's good to go on a plane. This may come as a surprise considering in April 2019 TSA reported a man for CBD possession - which led to arrest by local authorities. TSA changed its rules to match the new law. Hence, they no longer consider CBD grown in accordance with the law a banned substance.
Why the TSA won’t actively search for marijuana
The TSA specifies that their area of interest is passenger and aircraft safety. That's why it is now possible to fly with CBD. CBD is unlikely to be a threat to either of those, which is probably why the agency would like to clarify their stance on it. Strictly speaking, marijuana does not fall within their area of concern either.
They state, “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
This means they will always report any marijuana that they happen to find – including marijuana-derived CBD substances – to local authorities. Moreover, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and the Farm Bill did nothing to change that. That’s why the TSA views the compound THC and marijuana itself as illegal, regardless of whether the state has legalized recreational or medical use.
If someone were to catch you with marijuana or marijuana-derived CBD, it doesn’t necessarily mean an arrest though: depending on the origin and destination, measures could vary from arrest to confiscation to no penalty at all.
TSA’s past with marijuana
The update on the website is a welcome change to CBD activists, users, and physicians. Especially since TSA has gone back and forth on their marijuana policy owing to apparent errors on the website. In April 2017, the agency changed the response on the medical marijuana section of the ‘What Can I Bring?’ page to a green yes, indicating that medical marijuana was okay to carry in luggage. After the page attracted significant attention, the TSA temporarily removed the section altogether. They then tweeted that they made a 'mistake in the database'.
Shortly after, the TSA clarified their stance on cannabis in all forms, saying: “Whether or not marijuana is considered legal under local laws is not relevant to TSA screening… Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana,” effectively saying that no cannabis substances are allowed by the TSA. Thankfully, the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill has prompted several federal agencies to clarify their policies.
Why the TSA changed their policy on CBD
A spokesperson for the TSA said that they recently found out about the FDA approved drug containing CBD Oil called Epidiolex. Following this discovery, they ‘immediately updated TSA.gov once (they) became aware of the issue’. The issue, of course, was families wondering whether Epidiolex was safe to carry on a flight. Epidiolex is used to treat seizures in children with a certain condition and was approved by the FDA last year.
How to carry CBD on a flight
Still concerned about unnecessary delays at the airport due to your CBD? Here are some best practices you can adopt to make sure you’re safe.
• Marijuana-derived CBD or THC/CBD blends are a no. If you absolutely must carry them, make sure marijuana is legal in both your origin and departure state. Regardless, slight delays during screening are possible. • If you want hemp-derived CBD, choose a brand that conducts third-party lab tests on their products. Carry a digital or hard copy to confirm its contents. Provide it to a TSA officer if you get into trouble. • Opt for a brand that contains 0% THC and says so on the label. This could save you precious time during screenings. Keep the lab report handy anyway!
The future of CBD in the USA
CBD users and manufacturers are eagerly awaiting a future where they mustn’t constantly be worried because of what is essentially a wellness product and has zero psychoactive properties. There’s hope though. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA are currently developing broader regulatory guidelines for hemp hemp-derived products, with a meeting on the matter being held on 31st May. Hopefully, this means that CBD policies and CBD users can both get more relaxed!