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As cannabis has shed its stigma and drug laws have evolved to exclude the herb, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has experienced what it describes as “exponential growth” in the number of medical cannabis prescriptions and cannabis-positive declarations.

To accommodate the country’s ever-increasing number of licensees, and adapt to the reality of looming reform, CATSA moved recently to update its screening policy for Canadians flying with medical cannabis. Implemented late last year, the authority’s new measures are designed to help expedite domestic travel for patients.1 

Updated CATSA Screening Policy

Where CATSA once had to call police if cannabis was found or declared – no matter what the circumstance – agents are no longer required to summon authorities IF the person possessing the cannabis is legally permitted to do so. That is, anyone flying with medical cannabis must ensure they have a valid medical license in hand, and that the amount they are carrying is in accordance with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).2 

Though police will no longer be called, and itineraries shouldn’t have to be shifted, for flying with medical cannabis, there are still a few measures patients can take to minimize the risk of becoming the subject of additional screening at the airport.

Flying in Accordance to the ACMPR

For anyone flying with medical cannabis, a strong general rule is to know, and comprehend, the ACMPR. Health Canada has outlined the specifics of the regulations in its guide to understanding the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, and those holding approved licenses should, first and foremost, have a working understanding of the regulations.

Particularly, boarding a plane with medical cannabis in a carry-on (never stowed) will require proper paperwork. CATSA rules that any person flying with medical cannabis must be prepared to present a license certified by Health Canada, and be able to prove that the product has been procured from a legal source within 30 days of the date of travel.

A simple solution to the latter question is to store any medical cannabis purchased from a Canadian Licensed Producer (LP) in its original packaging. Given licensees have a 30-day carry limit, it is also important to possess a purchase receipt or sale sticker, which is easily affixed to the jars and packages of most LPs.

Travelling Outside of Canada

A basic rule for traveling with medical cannabis outside of Canada is: don’t. Even in American states and countries where cannabis is legal, either for medical or recreational use, flying internationally with medical cannabis is not recommended, or permitted.

Because Canada’s export laws don’t allow for cannabis to be moved out of the country without a permit, it is illegal for medical patients to travel internationally with any cannabis that has been purchased domestically.

While countries like Canada have moved in recent years to welcome reforms to drug laws with respect to cannabis, there are still only a limited number of countries in which cannabis is a legal treatment option. For that reason, it is best to reserve air travel with medical cannabis to airports situated on Canadian soil.

  1. Understanding the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/drugs-health-products/understanding-new-access-to-cannabis-for-medical-purposes-regulations.html
  2. Medication and medical items. https://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/en/medication-and-medical-items

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