Flying With CBD? TSA Says It’s Cool

Published on May 28, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
TSA says its agents aren't going to stop you for a little CBD oil. But don't get cocky. (rikkyal/iStock)

As millions of summer travelers begin packing their bags, the issue of taking CBD through airport security might be causing more anxiety than ever.

Here’s a little bit of relief. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Transportation Security Administration announced that its agents won’t hassle you over a little CBD. As Marijuana Moment first reported, the TSA updated its website’s “What Can I Bring” section on medical marijuana to state:

“Carry On Bags: Yes (Special Instructions); Checked Bags: Yes (Special Instructions).”

Those “special instructions” are three paragraphs of jargon that’ll baffle most travelers. Americans don’t do special instructions. So below, we parse the written policy for you.

Parsing the TSA Policy Update

Text: “Possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law.”

Translation: Sorry folks, marijuana prohibition is still federal law according to the Controlled Substances Act. Call your Congressman. It’s insane, but technically, you can still be busted for CBD. We here at TSA don’t do it, but other law enforcement agencies can.

Hey, officer! Stop arresting grandma for her CBD oil

We Must Follow the Law

Text: “TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products.”

Translation: We’re a federal agency, we must follow the law, yada yada. But we have tons of discretion.

We Don’t Care About CBD

Text: “Products/medications that contain hemp-derived CBD or are approved by the FDA are legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.”

Translation: Popular CBD brands like Charlotte’s Web, which are on sale at drug stores, can go through airport security. So can new cannabis prescription drugs approved by the FDA, like Epidiolex. At TSA, we don’t care. All we care about is the security of airplanes. The farm bill (aka the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) removed the federal ban on hemp, which is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. If you can extract CBD from hemp, which many companies do, then that CBD is legal under federal law. But some states still have old laws that outlaw hemp and, hence, CBD. Like South Dakota. Where a man at the Sioux Falls airport was arrested last month by local cops for possessing a bottle of CBD oil. Those cops were called by a TSA agent. Sorry. Our bad. Won’t happen again.

Does the Farm Bill Legalize CBD, Too? Not Exactly

You technically need a federal permit to grow and ship any farm bill CBD, and those permits don’t exist yet. Nevertheless, it’s flying around literally everywhere via online ordering and personal transportation. We don’t care. We’re not the DEA or the FDA. We’re the TSA, read on for what we do.

We Care About Airplanes

Text: “TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers.”

Translation: The TSA is overwhelmed with the task of keeping guns and knives off planes, folks. We found 176 firearms in just 13 days this month, and 54 of those guns were loaded, with a round in the chamber, for god’s sake. Personal amounts of CBD—which has no addictive profile and no lethal overdose—just don’t rank.

Don’t Press Your Luck

Text: “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.

Translation: Don’t get cocky. If you fly with 50 pounds of marijuana, and a TSA agent finds it, you’re going to the local jail and will probably be charged with drug trafficking. If you’re travelling with a small, personal amount of CBD gummies, we’re not looking for it. And if we find it, we don’t care. Except for that agent in Sioux Falls. Again, sorry.

If we find less than an ounce of cannabis—and you’re in a legal state—it’s also cool.

Also, the TSA does not like liquids, glass, and metal—so save us all time and avoid keeping your CBD in those materials. Don’t roll CBD flower up in a joint and leave it hanging off your lip. Just be discreet. We all have a plane to catch. Good day.

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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