Air travel can be anxiety-provoking, more so if you’re traveling with CBD. These TSA-approved tips tell you how to fly with CBD and less stress.
Olivia WaltersFebruary 22, 2022
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Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the same question is on a lot of people’s minds: can you fly with cannabidiol (CBD) oil? After all, cannabis has received special notoriety in the past decade as more and more states move to legalize the plant for recreational and medicinal use.
Anyone who flies regularly knows all too well the hassle of having to pack a bag according to airline regulations, followed by the uneasy security experience. When it comes to traveling with CBD, a substance that many people consider a non-negotiable part of their wellness routine, the rules seem even more unclear.
Ahead, learn the official word on flying with CBD, the benefits of hemp medicine for flight anxiety, and what you can do to get through security confidently if your carry-on includes CBD.
Can You Fly With CBD?
The short answer – it depends. Thanks to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD is federally legal. That means you can grow, sell, buy, and consume CBD without having to worry about any legal consequences (on a federal level). Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is not included on the federally-mandated list of controlled substances.
The only kicker with CBD is that it has to have less than 0.3% THC. This small amount could be left behind after extraction, but it’s not enough to produce psychoactive “high” effects. Of the three types of CBD, isolate and broad-spectrum contain zero THC, while full-spectrum CBD has some THC.
CBD is typically extracted from hemp, a plant from the same family as marijuana, but without a high concentration of THC. In other words, hemp and marijuana both come from cannabis, but they each have varying levels of cannabinoids (therapeutic compounds).
Technically, flying with CBD is legal in the eyes of the federal government, but then again, individual states get the final say-so. Things get a bit trickier if you’re crossing state lines.
States Where CBD Is Illegal
If you’re flying in or out of Idaho, South Dakota, or Nebraska, you’d be wise to leave your CBD at home. As of now, these three states have set rules against (or unclear technicalities around) the possession of recreational hemp.
This is subject to change as states approve new laws in the future.
But what about prescribed cannabis? Currently, only one FDA-approved CBD product qualifies under a medical exemption. For those managing epilepsy with Epidiolex, you can legally pack it on your carry-on and travel across state lines, according to TSA regulations.
If you’re using CBD for other medical conditions, many states have yet to specify what is and isn’t legal for medicinal CBD patients using products sourced from marijuana. To be safe, you may want to research specific state legislation regarding CBD before your flight.
Circling back to the question of hemp-sourced CBD products, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) follows the guidelines outlined by the 2018 Farm Bill. They permit “[CBD] products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by the FDA.”
In other words, you can legally bring hemp-derived CBD into an airport and onto a plane without arousing federal suspicion. Contrary to public opinion, TSA officers are not actively looking to zero in on people traveling with cannabis. The screening procedures are there to detect potential safety threats—and, fortunately, cannabis doesn’t fall under that category.
However (and this is a major downside), if the TSA does find your stash, you could be subject to local/state violations. If you’re wondering how a TSA officer distinguishes between CBD and THC, well, it’s not a straight answer. Ultimately, it’s up to the TSA officer to decide. To stay on the safe side, you can prepare your CBD in a way that’s 100% transparent (more on this later).
Similar to the United States, many government agencies, such as the European Union, give a pass on CBD products as long as they contain little to no trace of THC.
However, laws vary between countries and should be researched. From there, individual countries have the right to make their own legislation.
But worldwide, there’s no set of standardized laws on CBD, which makes it hard to say one way or another. To err on the side of caution and avoid losing time going through security, consider picking up your CBD when you land. You can always use CBD before heading to the airport if you’re anxious about a long flight.
If you’re wondering what countries have legalized CBD, you can check out our in-depth guide here.
Benefits of CBD for Air Travel
Flight phobia, or the fear of flying, is not something to brush off as being “in your head.” This condition is a documented anxiety disorder in the DSM-5, involving anticipatory anxiety days or weeks before a flight and extremely negative mental images about potential disasters.
Depending on the severity of your anxiety, CBD may help soothe pre-flight panic and nervousness. Despite the lag in federal and state legislation, pre-clinical and analytical research reveals the promising benefits of CBD:
To Relieve Anxiety
In a 2019 double-blind study, researchers set out to determine the effect of using 300mg CBD as exposure therapy for patients with social anxiety and panic disorder associated with agoraphobia. As the first clinical trial to test the effectiveness of CBD for phobic patients, the findings could help thousands of future fliers dealing with pre-flight anxiety.
Preclinical evidence has already confirmed the anxiety-reducing effects of CBD on the stress response, so for people with flight phobia, CBD could ward off heart-racing fits of anxiety before takeoff.
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If you’re looking for a CBD product to help alleviate anxiety, look no further than Lazarus Naturals’ Calm CBD Gummies. Each is made with 25mg of full-spectrum CBD along with a dose of L-Theanine and Ashwagandha to further relieve stress.
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To Promote Better Sleep
Animal studies and small controlled trials have shown that CBD increases sleepiness, which may be good news for fliers who have trouble dozing off on airplanes. However, the same study suggests that products with both CBD and THC may make you more alert than sleepy.
You can experiment with this before your flight to find the formula that helps you nod off to sleep. But since you can’t legally bring THC on the plane, CBD is a suitable and legal sleep aid. Furthermore, CBD sleep products are sometimes made using other all-natural ingredients that help promote sleep.
Featured Product: CBD Oil for Sleep
If you’re looking to catch some sleep on your next flight, you’ll likely prefer a CBD product formulated for such. Green Roads’ Sweet Sleep CBD Oil is made using 25mg of CBD and cannabinol (CBN) per dose along with 2.5mg of melatonin.
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To Provide Pain Relief
In self-reported survey results published by the Journal of Pain Research, more than half of the 253 participants said that CBD products improved their back, neck, and nerve pain. Based on this anecdotal evidence, you may find relief while sitting in constrained, uncomfortable positions on an airplane with CBD.
Featured Product: CBD Cream for Pain
When it comes to flying, many of us struggle with aches and pains once the flight is over. If this is a common occurrence, you’ll likely want to give FOCL’s Relief Cream a try. This topical is infused with menthol, eucalyptus, and wintergreen oil to provide a cooling effect along with camphor oil and premium CBD to ease muscle and joint pains.
The same rules for liquids apply to CBD. If you’re bringing tinctures in your carry-on, make sure they’re less than 3.4 oz. Travel-sized shouldn’t be that much of a hurdle with CBD products, which generally already come packaged in small containers.
If you’re wondering if it’s better to bring edibles, tinctures, joints/flower, sprays, vapes, or topicals, here’s the deal: pack smart and plan for the worst-case scenario. To avoid an awkward TSA encounter, keep your CBD in its original packaging. You can also bring a copy of the product’s certificate of analysis (CoA) as a secondary precaution measure. This way, if you do run into a problem, you’ll have the proper paperwork to prove your CBD complies with the less than 0.3% THC rule.
Tips for Overcoming Stress at Security
For some people, airports are an exciting stepping stone to the next adventure. Assuming that everything goes according to plan, flying can be a thrill. But, like most things in life, plans change unexpectedly.
You might hit traffic on the way to the airport, misplace your travel documents, lose non-TSA compliant valuables at security, or worse, miss your flight due to unforeseen circumstances.
There are a million possibilities, but to ensure you get from point A to B, read over this list of expert flier tips (especially if you’re traveling with CBD):
Pack and organize before you go: Last-minute packing – just don’t do it. Keep your stress levels in check by gathering all of your belongings the night before you fly.
Research domestic/international CBD laws: This bit of research will save you time and money. If it’s illegal where you’re going, you won’t run the risk of TSA officers throwing your CBD in the trash. But if it is legal, you’ll need time to print the product’s CoA before your flight.
Breathe, the TSA isn’t the police: Even though they’re in uniform, TSA officers aren’t there to arrest you for a little CBD. Move swiftly and confidently through security and you should be fine.
Don’t go out of your way to hide your stash: Not only will this increase anxiety if your bag gets pulled, but it sends a signal to TSA officers that you have something to hide. If you have CBD gummies, stow them in a quart-sized baggie with your other food items. For tinctures, keep them in a sealed bag with your cosmetics. Vape oil and batteries are only allowed in your carry-on bag, preferably in a separate, sealed bag. Transparency is best, so remember to keep everything in its original packaging.
You can probably get away with flying with CBD, depending on the airport, the state you’re flying to, and the TSA officer on duty. Because CBD is federally legal, airport guidelines have recognized the changing legal situation and made updates accordingly.
CBD may provide relief for anxious flyers, but if you’re worried about losing your CBD at security, plan on dosing before you arrive at the airport. If it’s legal at your next destination, pick up what you need there to avoid unnecessary hassle at security.
Olivia Walters is a journalist in Portland, OR. Olivia writes for cannabis publications and clients so she can bewitch the world with feminist and educational messages. She has a passion for women’s health and believes cannabis can help women take care of themselves. For Olivia, cannabis is a path to deeper, proactive discussions about health, culture, and femininity. For more information, find Olivia on LinkedIn.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since TSA isn’t looking for cannabis, it’s safe to say they won’t perform a cannabinoid test at security. However, they may pass the situation off to a law enforcement officer. You can field questions about your CBD by keeping it in its original packaging with a printed copy of the certificate of analysis. To state the obvious, don’t bring products with the cannabis universal symbol (marijuana leaf and exclamation point).
It’s better to seal your CBD with other liquids and valuables. If it’s accessible, you’re less likely to get dinged by the airport baggage scanner.
Depending on the type of CBD you use, it could take 5 minutes to two hours to feel the effects. Gummies and tinctures are less bioavailable than vapes. If you need instant relief, smoke before you step into the airport. But you may want to time your dosage with takeoff, so an edible or tincture would work better in this scenario. In such cases, consume between 30 minutes to an hour before arriving at the airport.