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Is CBD Safe to Carry on a Plane?

crowded airport

Nov. 26, 2019 -- Many air travelers who struggle with anxiety and jet lag have turned to CBD as a remedy, even as researchers are still investigating whether it works. Other travelers like to tote along CBD in skin care or beauty products.

But many also wonder: Will my CBD get past the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)?

Earlier this year, officials arrested a 71-year-old woman at the Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport in May after finding CBD oil in a carry-on. She spent two nights in jail.

While the TSA recently loosened up its regulations around CBD products, the answer is still: It depends.

Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products including cannabidiol (CBD) oil are still illegal under federal law and won't make it through government screening, says Carrie Harmon, a TSA spokesperson. But CBD products made from hemp, which contain no more than 0.3% THC, are legal under the Farm Bill of 2018. THC is the component in marijuana that produces a “high.”

In addition, the FDA recently warned companies that adding CBD to foods or dietary supplements is illegal because it has not been declared to be GRAS, or generally recognized as safe.

The TSA’s updated regulations allow passengers to legally bring these products on board:

  • Medical marijuana
  • Products that contain no more than 0.3% THC
  • FDA-approved products. The only one currently approved is Epidiolex (cannabidiol), which treats two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

At the Airport

Once at the TSA checkpoint, what can CBD-toting travelers expect? According to the TSA, screening is focused on security and protecting passenger safety. “TSA security officers don’t search for marijuana or cannabis-infused products. However, in the event a substance that appears illegal is discovered during security screening, TSA officers will refer the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement officers then follow their own procedures."

And no, there won't be a TSA dog sniffing your luggage or purse. "TSA K9s only search for explosives and explosive components," Harmon says.

Who gets the final word? The TSA website posts: The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.

The other complicating factor is that some states may have more restrictive laws regarding CBD. In Virginia, for example, you can only purchase CBD with a prescription. And CBD of any type is not allowed in dietary supplements or food, the FDA says.

Here’s what experts suggest:

If you are traveling with medical marijuana or an FDA-approved drug, take your prescription with you in case there are any questions. Keep the marijuana and the prescription drug in original packaging.

If you have CBD products, find the product's certificate of analysis, or CoA.

CoAs are listed on manufacturer's websites. Or, once the product is purchased, the QR code on the label should be scannable, taking customers to the product's webpage and the CoA. A CoA will list the percent of CBD and other cannabinoids, when it was tested, and the name of the lab that tested it (outside labs are preferred to company testing, experts say.)

"Print a copy of the certificate of analysis (or CoA) of the CBD product you are carrying so you have formal documentation of what that product is," says Alex Wolfe, vice-president of business development for ShopCBD.com, an online specialty store representing 32 companies that sell hemp-derived products.

"Any good brand should be able to show you the CoA," agrees Gary Avetisyan, who is co-owner of two Topikal stores in the Los Angeles area selling CBD products. That way, he says, it will be clear there is no THC or it is below the required 0.3%.

Besides packing the CoA, ''print out the latest regulations that TSA has posted, or have the link to the latest regulations on your phone," Wolfe suggests. That way, if you encounter a new TSA agent or one unfamiliar with all the regulations, you have support.

Other Options

If the anxiety of wondering whether you will get through TSA with your CBD is too overwhelming, it might be better to check out whether it's legal at your destination and simply buy it there. One source for state laws on marijuana, CBD, and hemp is norml.org.

Another option is to shop online or at a store before the trip, then ship the CBD to your destination, Avetisyan says.  

Los Angeles attorney Griffen Thorne, who is familiar with cannabis issues, urges passengers to be cautious. He recommends not taking CBD on international flights.

"The laws in the jurisdiction you are flying to can be drastically different. Flying domestically with a CBD product is obviously less of a risk, but I still think there are risks." Not everyone is up to date on the new TSA stance, he says. Hemp is not a controlled substance federally, he says, but people transporting it across state lines get pulled over. Law enforcement officials are not all familiar with the differences between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis-derived CBD.

As for marijuana, medical or recreational, the best advice, he says, is  ''leave it all at home" if you're flying, since it remains a Schedule I drug on the federal level.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 27, 2019

Sources

Carrie Harmon, TSA spokesperson.

TSA: "Medical Marijuana."

Gary Avetisyan, co-owner, Topikal CBD, Los Angeles.

Alex Wolfe, spokesperson, ShopCBD.com.

Epidiolex.com.

FDA.

NBCDFW.com: “Traveling Grandmother Jailed for CBD Oil: 'I Slept on the Floor… Next to the Toilet.'”

Citizen Truth: “What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis (COA) (And How to Read It).”

Marijuana Policy Project.

TravelLatte: “Traveling with CBD.”

Brookings: “The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer.”

Griffen Thorne, attorney, Harris Bricken, Lost Angeles.

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