Travelling soon? Before you pack, know how to travel with medicinal cannabis 

Australians love to travel. In the 2022-23 year, there were 8,337,080 overseas trips taken by Australian residents, more than 5 times the previous year.

With the top destination countries being New Zealand, Indonesia, the USA, the UK and India. Domestically, over 36 million trips have been recorded in the 2022-23 year.

When travelling, it’s prudent to stay organised with your medications. However, it’s crucial to note that the legal regulations regarding travelling with medicinal cannabis are more intricate compared to many other medications. Regulations vary not only between countries but also, in certain instances, among different Australian states. It is crucial to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about local laws and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience.

Travelling in Australia

Medicinal cannabis is legal in every Australian state however the requirements around prescribing and dispensing can differ slightly depending on the state.

When considering domestic travel, it is permissible to journey between states with medicinal cannabis as long as an approved doctor has prescribed it, and it is carried in its original container with the pharmacy-dispensed label. Possession of cannabis which has not been obtained legally is still an offence in most states and territories. 

Some clinics offer medicinal cannabis cards. It is important to know that these are not recognised as a legal document and do not replace the requirement to travel with the original, labelled containers as dispensed by the pharmacy. Whilst it is not required when travelling within Australia, it may be useful to have a letter from your doctor describing the cannabis medicine you are taking and how much you are bringing with you.

Overseas Travel

Heading overseas introduces additional complexities. It is the patient’s responsibility and not that of the doctor, pharmacist or travel agent to verify the legality of medicinal cannabis at their destination and understand any relevant rules or restrictions. While some countries permit travel with medicinal cannabis, others may require you to obtain a permit. Conversely, certain destinations may consider it illegal or a controlled substance, with severe penalties associated with its possession, even if prescribed legally in Australia.

Beyond destination regulations, it is essential to account for the requirements set by your airline or cruise line, as well as any layover destinations in your journey.

Some of the most popular destinations for travel for Australians are New Zealand, Indonesia, the UK and the US.  Let’s take a look at some of the considerations for those choosing to travel to these destinations.

Travelling to New Zealand

Medicinal cannabis is legal in New Zealand and it is possible to travel there with prescribed medications that have been dispensed in Australia so long as:

  • the product has been prescribed to you by a doctor
  • you have a copy of the prescription or a letter from your doctor stating that you are being treated with the product
  • you declare the product on your passenger arrival card
  • you carry the product in its original labelled container, and
  • you are bringing no more than a 3-month supply of a CBD product or a 1-month supply of any other medicinal cannabis product.

Additionally, only vaporisers approved as a medical device by an overseas regulator can be imported into New Zealand. This ensures the vaporiser will be a safe method for administering medicinal cannabis. 

Other vaporiser devices, and utensils with prohibited features, continue to be prohibited from New Zealand and may be confiscated by Customs.

Travelling to Indonesia

Cannabis-based products such as cannabis oil and creams, hemp, CBD, THC, hash and edibles remain illegal in Indonesia, including for medicinal purposes. Having a medical prescription does not make it legal. If you take such products to Indonesia or purchase or use them in Indonesia, you can be arrested and face imprisonment, fines, deportation or the death penalty.

Astrid Dispensary and Clinic explores the travel requirements for medicinal cannabis

Travelling to the UK

Medicinal cannabis is available in the UK however it is highly regulated and most cannabis based products are classified as a schedule 1 drug.

The Home office advice currently states that “You cannot bring schedule 1 drugs into the UK without a licence. Licences for schedule 1 drugs are limited to research or other special purposes and therefore it is recommended you do not travel to the UK with your Australian prescribed medicinal cannabis. 

Further information regarding applying for permits to travel to the UK is available here

Travelling to the USA

Some U.S. states have legalised cannabis removing all penalties for possession and personal use. However, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level in the USA and therefore you can not travel to the USA with your prescribed medicinal cannabis from Australia. 

In short, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) website mentions that marijuana and certain cannabis products, including some CBD oils, are still prohibited by federal law. The exception is for products with less than 0.3% THC or those approved by the FDA. 

While TSA primarily focuses on security and doesn’t specifically search for drugs, if illegal substances are found during screening, they will involve law enforcement. It’s important to note that many US airlines don’t allow cannabis in any form on board.

Planes, boats and automobiles

When planning a road trip, it’s crucial to be aware of the regulations regarding the intake of medicinal cannabis products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while driving. It’s noteworthy that these laws differ across Australian states, and similar regulations exist overseas. In addition to potential penalties abroad, it’s essential to recognize that contravening local drug driving laws may result in adverse consequences, including the possibility of travel insurance not covering accidents. Therefore, understanding and adhering to these laws is paramount to a safe and trouble-free road trip experience.

If travelling on a cruise ship, even if departing and arriving at an Australian port, it is important to first check with the cruise line if they will allow you to bring medicinal cannabis onboard, many do not allow cannabis onboard even if legally prescribed.

Additionally, certain airlines will also not allow passengers onboard with prescribed medicinal cannabis products, even if the destination does allow. It’s important to check this with the individual airline before travelling.

If travelling with a vaporiser it is important to remember that many of these contain lithium batteries. Batteries that are installed in portable electronic devices may be kept in checked luggage under some conditions. You should discuss this with your airline when you check in. All spare or loose batteries must be in your carry-on baggage only. Also, the vaporiser should be clean with no cannabis flower inside. Bring any paperwork that mentions that your cannabis needs to be taken via vaporiser with you.

Remember, the laws and regulations around medicinal cannabis internationally and in Australia change with time so it’s important to ensure that you have the most up to date  information for your destination and carrier before you travel.

In summary, Australians need to navigate complex legal issues when carrying medicinal cannabis, with variations between countries and Australian states. Awareness of regulations for specific destinations, such as New Zealand allowing travel with prescribed cannabis and Indonesia strictly prohibiting it, is crucial. Additionally, understanding laws for driving with medicinal cannabis and checking airline policies on its carriage are essential to ensure a safe and compliant travel experience.

To learn more about natural therapies or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries