If you currently live in an area where local authorities have legalized marijuana, you may naturally start to assume that other regions of the country are equally permissive. Unfortunately, marijuana possession, not to mention growing or distribution, is still very much illegal and rigidly enforced in many places. Jail time for even small amounts of marijuana intended for personal use can be extensive. This comes in addition to fines, community service and the hassle of a criminal record. Here are a few tips for traveling safely into states where marijuana prohibition is still in full effect.
Is Possession Legal?
The Controlled Substances Act of 1971 makes marijuana possession, distribution, and cultivation a federal crime. Federal laws theoretically trump any state laws that contradict them, including ones covering drugs, although states also retain significant authority. Because of this, it is theoretically possible for the DEA or another federal law enforcement agency to arrest sellers and users in a state like California, even though the state legislature had passed a law making it legal. This was a common occurrence in the early days of legalization, as the federal government tried to assert its authority over states’ rights. Today, though, the only places that arrest is a real danger are in states where local marijuana prohibition laws still exist or areas where the federal government is in charge, like national parks and airports.
In Washington State, it is illegal to both posses product grown in other states, as well as take product grown in Washington out of the state. It is also good to be aware of the legal limits for the different forms of cannabis. A standard recreational consumer can only have 28 grams of flower, 7 grams of concentrates, 16 ounces of solid edibles, and 72 ounces of liquid edibles. If you are caught with more you may find yourself in legal trouble!
Motor vehicle operation while stoned has become a contentious issue, both in states where marijuana is legal and in states where it is still illegal. Roadside testing is becoming more of a common reality thanks to improvements in THC detection technology. Some states, such as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, all prohibit drivers from operating motor vehicles with any amount of THC present in their system. In Washington State, it is illegal to drive with more than 5ng/ml if you are 21 or over, and if you are under 21 it is illegal to have any THC in your system. It's important to familiarize yourself with the laws when traveling so that you can make the right decision and call a taxi or rideshare if needed.
Travelling Through Airports
Taking marijuana on a flight is a big risk. Smugglers increasingly attempt to transport marijuana through airports in states where it is legal, raising higher levels of alert. Taking small amounts for personal use on trips out of state is even more common for users. Even in a legal state, it is not worth it to deal with the potential problems you may encounter at the airport.
For the time being, Washington State cannabis products have to stay in the state they were grown. Fortunately, we are seeing more and more states adopt legal recreational cannabis, so hopefully it won't be too long until these laws lighten up.
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