What You Need to Know About Medical Cannabis and Flying in Canada

It’s hard to imagine taking a trip over an extended distance without flying.  Whether for business or personal reasons, bringing medical cannabis with you on your travels can quickly become a major hassle.

That’s why the government of Canada has put in place regulations and recommended precautions to help take the stress and potential headache out of travelling with your medicine.

As long as your travels remain within Canada, travellers with the appropriate licences are allowed to bring medical cannabis along for the trip.  Patients must however be registered with a Licenced Producer (LP).  That is to say, your cannabis must from a legalized source, while your reason for possessing it must be documented and legitimate as well.  All patients must be in compliance with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) at all times.  If your cannabis usage has not been approved by a medical professional, you are NOT allowed to travel with it.

While travelling through the airport it is important to know that security and airport authorities are vigilant to screening all passengers bringing medical cannabis on their travels.  There are many instances where travellers attempt to bring illegal cannabis (contraband), on board the airplane in a bid to take it with them to their destination.  If the cannabis you’re travelling with is medicinal, and you are accredited to do so, please cooperate with airport security and save everyone involved the additional hassle.

Consider the following information when travelling with medical cannabis so you can avoid negative situations and delays.

Know the Facts of Medical Cannabis and Flying

Only domestic travel is permitted with medical cannabis in tow.  Canada’s laws are not the same as other countries, where cannabis may be illegal and those caught with it may face legal repercussions.  Do not rely on your medical permit or the government of Canada to assist you, as they will have no jurisdiction to do so.  This is true even if your destination country has legalized medical cannabis.  Laws often have small differences and could land you in hot water if broken.

While flying within Canada, medical cannabis may be transported on the airplane but consuming it on board is illegal.  This includes smoking, ingesting or vaporizing medical cannabis.  Travellers are limited to bringing a thirty day supply, typically no more than 150 grams of dried medical cannabis.  It does not matter the distance of your travel or the duration – this rule is in place for a reason.

How to Package Your Medical Cannabis for Flying

Any medical cannabis that you are bringing with you must be stored correctly.  There must be no odour escaping from the package and it must be within easy access for inspection by airport authorities.  Other passengers must not be able to know that you are carrying medical cannabis.  It is recommended to store medical cannabis in the container in which it was prescribed.  This container will contain all the necessary information and airport authorities will have an easier time of verifying its legality.  Sometimes medical cannabis, even when in it’s original container, can give off an odour.  In this case you are responsible for ensuring the issue is dealt with.  Place the container inside an airtight and smell proof bag.  Keep in mind that the air on the airplane will be re-circulated and even a small amount of cannabis odour can affect the entire aircraft. LP’s like INDIVA provide quality packaging that won’t let odour leak out and is a great way to pack your medicine for travel.

Where is the best place to pack the medical cannabis you will be travelling with?

The whereabouts and methods used to pack your medical cannabis can have a direct relation to how long it takes you to move through the airport security.  It is recommended to follow the guidelines laid out by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA).

  • Always keep your medical cannabis together with the paperwork and documentation associated with your medicine. This includes the registration card issued by your LP, which you received with your first order.
  • Always keep your medical cannabis and supporting documents in an easily accessible location. You will be asked to present all items to airport security, so packing them inside your carry on is recommended.
  • It is legal to store your medicine inside your checked luggage, but airport authorities will need to track down your luggage for the mandatory inspection. This puts you at risk of major delays and increases the risk of your luggage not making it on your flight with you.

The faster you are able to provide all the necessary documentation, the sooner you can be checked into your flight.

Is it a good idea to notify the authorities before you travel?

While there is no legal obligation to do so, informing the relevant authorities can reduce the amount of time spent in airport security. It is recommended not to do this at the last minute, but allow for a couple weeks time as many authorities have differing protocols and timeframes when dealing with medical cannabis and travel.

Authorities you could notify include:

  • The airport
  • The airline
  • The CATSA

What to do upon arrival at the airport

Showing up early for any flight is always a good idea, but it is extra important when travelling with medical cannabis.  Typically, adding an extra hour is enough time to ensure you will clear airport security on time.

After arriving at the airport, your first stop is the pre-boarding area.  Have your documents at hand and request a private search from the airport staff because you are travelling with medical cannabis.  Follow all instructions, cooperate fully and everything should run smoothly.  If the police are contacted, don’t be alarmed.  This is a regular part of the screening procedure but it can take some time to complete this step.

Now that you’ve provided all the necessary information and the local authorities have been satisfied, you will be free to board for your flight.  Make sure that your medical cannabis has been re-stored correctly.  Once on board the aircraft, you are not allowed to consume it in any way, so having it easily accessible is no longer a concern.

Travelling with medical cannabis will add some time and possible stress to the situation but you are legally able to do so.  Plan ahead and your travels within Canada will be a success with your medical cannabis.