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Traveling With CBD

Traveling With CBD

Posted by April Hatch, MPH, RN (she/hers) on 20th Sep 2021

I get a lot of questions about traveling across state lines with cannabinoid products and my answer always includes encouraging people to review, local laws, and to make the decision they are most comfortable with.

The decision I made to travel with CBD resulted in some good face time with US Customs and Border Protection recently, and with more traveling taking place these days I wanted to share my story as a reminder that no agency really knows what to do about CBD.

On our way home from a trip my husband and I took to Mexico, I spent nearly an hour with very kind and receptive customs agents as they tried to determine what to do about my plant-derived medicine. They didn't seem to care much about anything else, just the bottle of CBD. Prior to leaving the country I’d considered just leaving it home, but the thought of being without it for five days brought back memories of being in chronic pain, and that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.

So, after digging through my dirty clothes, toiletries, flipping through my books, having me explain every supplement in my pill box, getting to hear me on my soapbox about the cost of prescription medications in the U.S., and after spending some time “checking out” a few things on the computer they start to focus their attention on 2500 mg of cannabidiol.

“Oh, it says cannabis oil right here,” one agent excitedly says to another. He explains that THC is illegal and if they determine it has THC there may be consequences. I explain that it does have THC, and it clearly states that on the label, which says, “less than 0.3% THC.”

He begins with the first test, the “cannabis” test, and takes a dropperful of the CBD and places it in a solution. The results were clearly inconclusive and one officer wondered aloud if it was the color of the oil that affected the results. They moved on and tried a second test to determine if it had the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and again I pointed to that information on the bottle where it clearly stated it did.

For the second test they bring back “the machine,” and tell me how this test will be fool-proof. It wasn’t. They tried pouring some of the oil out, putting a probe in the bottle, shining a light though the bottle, and by this time 4 other customs officers were there trying to figure out if they needed to confiscate my CBD and fine me $500.

At this point it is clear they are getting a little frustrated and embarrassed but kindly tolerating my explanation of the Farm Bill of 2018, which legalized hemp. They had no idea what to do or how to test this CBD that, again, clearly stated did have a small amount of THC in it.

Right when they were ready to throw up their arms another officer brings over a third test, the “marijuana” test. They place a small amount of the oil in the solution, shake, wait a minute and just look at each other. Then they just tell me to pack up my stuff and next time leave the CBD at home.

I could say I got lucky because that was it. I got to pack up my CBD and continue onto my next flight. But I was also equally frustrated and embarrassed; frustrated they were choosing to focus on a non-intoxicating oil derived from a plant that has changed my life, and embarrassed that the CBD industry had failed to provide the education our federal agencies need to do their jobs.

So, no, I will not just leave my CBD at home and look forward to another opportunity to teach. 

Photos by STIL and JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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