Flying with medical cannabis in Canada

Before flying in Canada with medical cannabis, take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations

To some it may feel strange packing a quarter ounce of Sticky Icky into a carry-on bag, tucking it in between their toothbrush and socks. But one sign of the changing times is the increase in travellers who are legally allowed to carry and consume medical cannabis, and who are doing so while flying on major airlines.

While many Canadian cannabis users are enjoying this relatively new freedom, it may not be as simple as flashing a Health Canada license and walking on the plane. Lift has assembled some tips to help things go smoothly for you and your fellow travellers.

Bring documentation

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) states on their website:

“If you are travelling with medical marijuana, be prepared to show medical documentation. In airports where police are present, they will be called to verify your documents.”

While no guidelines have been provided as to what documents to bring, Lift suggests your ACMPR or grandfathered Health Canada license documents as a top priority. If your medicine is from a licensed producer, you may also be required to bring membership documentation and a sales receipt to prove your medicine came from from a legal source.

Make sure to keep your medicine in its original packaging, and pack it alongside its documentation in your carry-on luggage for easy access (and to prevent K9 units from flagging your checked baggage and causing further delays).

Communicate proactively

It’s generally recommended that you contact the airport directly, as well as the airline on which you’re flying, to let them know ahead of time that you’ll be travelling with medical cannabis. Give at least one to two weeks lead time, as they may not have had such a situation yet and might need time to establish procedures in line with CATSA standards. They may also inform you of additional requirements or policies to which you’ll need to adhere, so the more time you both have to get prepared the better.

[Ed: Based on feedback from ACMPR travellers, however, some suggest it may be more prudent to not go out of your way to draw the attention of employees who may be unfamiliar with the legality of medical cannabis.]

When the day comes for your flight, you already know they’ll require additional screening. So save yourself, your fellow travellers, and the airport security staff some time by letting the screening agents know as you approach them that your luggage contains medical cannabis and that you’ll require private screening.

In the private screening area you’ll be asked to present relevant documentation, which they will verify with a police officer. If no police officers are stationed or present at the airport you may have to wait for an officer to be called in—some cannabis-bearing travellers have registered complaints with CATSA for long wait times when officers aren’t available, so plan on arriving one or two hours earlier than you would for security checks if you were travelling without cannabis.

Be aware of limitations

In or outside the context of flying, ACMPR licensees have a 30-day carry limit that must be adhered to while flying, regardless of the duration of travel.

Cannabis should generally only be brought on domestic flights. Cannabis law in foreign countries varies greatly, with extremely severe punishments in some jurisdictions for simple possession and consumption. Even when travelling to countries with permissive cannabis laws, Canada’s export laws prohibit taking cannabis out of the country without strictly regulated licenses and permits.

Baked on a plane?

Currently no airline in Canada allows smoking or using e-cigarettes while aboard airplanes. This does extend to joints and cannabis vapes, and since most airports in Canada are also smoke-free, you’ll want to get good and medicated before taking the cab to the airport if that’s your chosen mode of intake.

One method of in-flight consumption that’s not prohibited is to drink infused oils and tinctures. Air travellers are allowed liquids in amounts up to 100mL, while oils and tinctures generally come in portions smaller than that. Just make sure the bottle is in a clear, closed, resealable plastic bag as per standard airline rules for liquids in carry-on.

Edibles such as brownies, cookies, etc, might be walking a fine line if not acquired through a licensed producer, but most LPs in Canada offer THC and/or CBD capsules—weed pills, in layman’s terms. As is evidenced by the numerous travellers openly gobbling back pharmaceuticals the moment an airline attendant breaks out some liquor to wash them down with, airlines seem to have no qualms with passengers ingesting medicine in pill form while flying.

But it’s also important to remember that airlines usually have intoxication policies whereby flights may be grounded and passengers removed from the plane when they’re deemed to be intoxicated to a degree that endangers themselves or causes a disturbance for other passengers. They tend not to discriminate between alcohol, cannabis, pharmaceuticals, and hard narcotics, so don’t expect special treatment just because you have a prescription—dose responsibly.

Lastly, if you’re conscientious about your fellow travellers, making small acts of consideration like wrapping odiferous paraphernalia in cellophane or packing it in tupperware to keep the stank from bothering other passengers can make the flight go a little more smoothly.

Flying on commercial airlines is a notoriously irritating process for everyone involved, but following the steps listed above can make it a little closer to tolerable for you, your fellow travellers, and the staff trying to get you all where you want to go.

Featured image by Wikipedia user Brian.

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  1. Maxcatski Reply

    As a matter of principle, I will never declare my legal cannabis to air security. My medication should be treated no differently than anyone else's. I used to pack my pot in my suitcase until I got my card. Then I started putting it in my carry-on figuring it was all good. Then I heard about the Air Transport Security regulations. Maybe everybody should declare their pot and have the police packing the airport. Anyway, air security never finds my pot even though they found my yogurt and all sorts of stuff on the person in front of me. I think they see it and they also understand they don't need the hassle. Trust me, everybody waiting at Security will hear about it if they stop me for my legal prescription. Luckily, this doesn't seem to happen. But I make sure to bring my documentation anyway. Gee, I wonder what will happen next year when it's legal for everybody to bring their own pot on the airplane!

  2. Casey Reply

    Hello! Im wondering if it is legal in Canada to fly within the country with a new, unused bong?