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With the inconsistency between federal and state laws governing the sale and distribution of hemp-derived CBD products, along with the varying state laws on the maximum amount of THC legally permitted in such products, in addition to state laws varying on requiring a doctor’s written certification and/or patient registration to obtain a hemp-derived CBD product, Americans are either confused or simply unaware if they can fly across state lines with their hemp-derived CBD products.
Well, back in May 2019, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a policy update to provide travelers with a little clarity on traveling with hemp-derived CBD (and medical marijuana).
Per TSA’s Medical Marijuana Policy:
“Marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities. TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, 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.” (Emphasis added)
This means that travelers who wish to travel with their hemp-derived CBD product may do so only if the product contains no more than a total of 0.3% THC in accordance with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334 (commonly referred to as the “2018 Farm Bill”). Per this same policy, travels can pack compliant products in their carry-on or checked baggage. See https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all
Great news, right? Sort of.
As quoted above, if a search of your checked baggage or carryon is conducted “the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint”. Since TSA officers are given discretion to determine whether a hemp-derived CBD product is allowed through the checkpoint, one has to wonder what training and education has TSA provided its TSA security officers on legal hemp-derived CBD products to empower these security officers to perform their job and not cause a traveler who followed TSA’s policy to wrongfully have their product confiscated and, more importantly, being referred to law enforcement. That answer currently remains unclear.
Are Certain Products Riskier to Pack Than Others?
As TSA’s policy is relatively new, it remains to be seen whether certain hemp-derived CBD products are riskier to travel with compared to others. Theoretically, if your hemp-derived CBD product meets the requirements of TSA’s policy, then the type of product shouldn’t matter.
Being curious to learn how TSA is responding to future traveling inquirers, we took a dive into TSA’s @AskTSA twitter feed and searched for tweets asking @AskTSA about traveling with hemp-derived CBD products. Our review found that @AskTSA may not be helpful to the everyday consumer seeking specific guidance. Here’s what we mean.
When asked “Could I bring non thc CBD oil in my carry on bag?”, the response was basically a paraphrased reiteration of TSA’s policy:
The list goes on. Additional similar or the same tweeted responses from @AskTSA to other inquiring travelers are prevalent in other tweets as well.
We believe that @AskTSA can improve to better help those who are responsible enough to reach out and ask. The demand and use of hemp-derived products among Americans of all generations has exploded since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and continues to grow as the pubic becomes more and more educated about the hemp plant as a natural wellness support aid. Users of hemp-derived CBD products likely rely on the purposes for which they use the products, so naturally they may have a need to travel with them.
Perhaps TSA is grappling with what they can and cannot say, which is why they’ve strategically taken the safe approach by vaguely responding to questions like the examples above. Unfortunately, this approach leaves the public confused, uncertain, and perhaps nervous, frustrated, anxious or fearful of flying with hemp-derived CBD products in compliance with TSA’s policy. We highly doubt this was an intended consequence, but it shouldn’t remain the status quo.
For now, and until further clarity is provided to the public, we speculate that traveling with non-ingestible hemp-derived CBD products (like topical creams and skincare products) and hemp-derived CBD oils that contain no more than the federal legal limit of no more than 0.3% THC is probably less risky than traveling with certain ingestible hemp-derived CBD products (such as smokable hemp flowers, CBD infused edibles, CBD infused beverages and pet treats).
Our speculation on the riskier products takes into account that smokable hemp flower looks and can even smells like marijuana, and a TSA officer may not be able to tell the difference. With regard to CBD infused edibles, CBD infused beverages, and hemp extract CBD pet foods, because the FDA prohibits the sale and distribution of such products across state lines a TSA officer may find such products questionable, even though you have the products for your (or your pet’s) own personal use and not for the sale or distribution to others.
All in all, time will reveal the answer.
So, Should I Travel with My Hemp-Derived CBD Product?
TSA permits it so long as your product complies with TSA’s policy. Nevertheless, proceed with caution and beware that traveling with even legal hemp-extract CBD products is unfortunately, at this stage, at your own risk. That sounds a little scary but, in reality, it shouldn’t be if your carry-on or packed product complies with TSA’s policy.
Just make sure to pack your product in its original packaging along with a hardcopy or retrievable electronic copy of the product’s Certificate of Analysis (i.e., the lab report) in the event your product’s content is questioned. There is no guarantee that the Certificate of Analysis will be the all-in-one proof that your product’s content complies with requirements of TSA’s policy, but having it with you should help show any inquiring TSA officer that you packed a product that is compliant with TSA’s policy. Of course, as with any questionable item, TSA may want to run its own test to verify your product’s content rather than entirely relying on the product’s Certificate of Analysis, so you should be prepared for that possibility as well.
Summing It Up
You can carry on or pack your hemp-derived CBD product when flying across state lines within the United States so long as the product contains no more than a total of 0.3% THC.
If you intend to travel within the United States with your product(s), here’s a few suggestions:
- Only pack hemp-derived CBD products that have no more than a total of 0.3% THC. If you’re not sure which line item on your product’s Certificate of Analysis you should be looking at to determine the total amount of THC, take a look at our previous blog, providing an interactive guide on how to read a COA.
- Only pack hemp-derived CBD products that are Made in the USA. Products purchased oversees and otherwise made in other countries may or may not qualify for purposes of meeting the 2018 Farm Bill requirements as cited in TSA’s policy.
- Keep the product in its original packaging.
- Have a copy of the product’s Certificate of Analysis with you in the event your product’s content is questioned. Even if your product’s label displays a QR code or the QR code is affixed to the product itself, it’s probably best to print a copy of the Certificate of Analysis or have it saved on your mobile device just in case the QR code gets damaged, becomes incapable of scanning, or for some reason the technology that day doesn’t work.
- If you reside in one of the few states that requires you to have a doctor’s written certification and/or be a registered patient in order to purchase and possess your hemp-derived CBD product, you should travel with those items on hand as well.
- As an additional super precautionary step, you may also want to have a printed, timestamped copy of TSA’s policy, or an electronic version saved on your mobile device, as a reference to show any inquiring TSA officer.
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