Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
*Accurate at time of publishing
Recreational marijuana use became legal in Canada on October 17. But what does that mean for Canadian travellers? Learn the ins and outs of travelling with cannabis within Canada and across borders.
Flying with cannabis within Canada
According to Transport Canada, flying with cannabis within the country is legal, as long as you meet the minimum age requirement and possession limit for personal use (be aware the legal age to possess marijuana is different across provinces: at present, it is either 18 or 19 years old).
Canadian adults can travel with up to 30 grams of cannabis in their carry-on or checked luggage. If it is packed in your carry-on luggage, you may want to arrive 30 minutes earlier than you normally would in case there are any questions.
Carrying cannabis oil in carry-on luggage must follow the liquid restrictions of 100 ml packaging or less.
if you’re carrying more than the recreational legal limit for medical purposes to last the duration of your trip, be prepared to show medical documentation in accordance with regulations.
Crossing the border with cannabis
Transporting medical or recreational cannabis across any international border is illegal – no exceptions. This includes any product containing cannabis, in any amount, regardless of whether you are travelling from a place where cannabis is also legal, like some U.S. States.
(Even if you are authorized to possess cannabis for medical purposes, the Government of Canada cannot authorize you to import or export marijuana for use on vacation or during travel. *Only Health Canada has the authorization to issue permits for importing or exporting cannabis under very limited circumstances.)
Simply put: don’t bring it in and don’t take it out. It is a criminal offense that can result in serious penalties, including fines, jail time, and a possible ban from the other country.
Procedures are still being finalized, but moving forward, travellers may be questioned about pot possession by border security and a question about cannabis use is anticipated to be added to the declaration form when arriving to Canada by air.
The cannabis industry and travel to the U.S.
Despite cannabis being legal in some US states, it is still illegal to transport across the U.S. border under Federal U.S. laws.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, generally, Canadians who are affiliated with the legal marijuana industry in Canada (with investments, for example), who are visiting the U.S for reasons unrelated, will be allowed in. However, if you are travelling to the U.S. for a reason related to the cannabis industry, you may be denied entry.
Cannabis and driving
Under The Cannabis Act, provinces and territories are responsible for determining the rules about cannabis pertaining to their province, including possession limits, the minimum age (19 years old except for Quebec and Alberta where the legal age is 18), where cannabis can be used in public (including banning the use of recreational marijuana in public, like Alberta), and other restrictions. It is the traveller’s responsibility to be aware of these rules when driving across provinces.
Like any drug or alcohol impairment, driving high is illegal. But what about driving with cannabis simply in the car? The rules differ by province, but generally, cannabis should be in closed packaging and not in reach of the driver. In some cases (like Manitoba) it must be stored in the trunk.
To be safe, here are some recommendations:
- Transport cannabis in original, sealed packaging in the trunk or concealed in the car, out of reach.
- Keep receipts to show it was purchased at an official outlet, when possible.
- Don’t let it sit unattended in the car, transport from point A to point B.
Repercussions of driving with cannabis within reach (or under suspected impairment) include fines, drug tests (roadside saliva tests), confiscations and possible charges.
It is the traveller’s responsibility to know the laws of places they are visiting and legally transport cannabis if they so choose.
In the case of an unexpected flight diversion where a domestic flight has to land at a U.S. airport, the onus is on the traveller for being refused entry into a country due to cannabis possession.
WestJet doesn’t reference recreational cannabis, but they do say:
“It is your responsibility to ensure you are safely and legally transporting or possessing your medication, for all points in your travel, including unexpected stops in locations for a flight diversion. It is your responsibility to contact the appropriate authorities to confirm allowances and restrictions of your medication.”
Air Canada specifies the traveller is responsible for any costs incurred as a result of a flight diversion:
“In the case of a domestic flight, please be advised that unforeseen situations may and do arise that require a domestic flight to divert to a U.S. airport, where arriving in possession of cannabis is not legal. If you are refused entry into a country because you have cannabis in your possession, you alone will be responsible for the consequences, including for payment of your return trip home.”
If one finds themselves in trouble with Customs and Immigration, at any border crossing for any type of illegal activity, neither the airline nor the travel agent can assist.
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