Transporting Legal Cannabis

By Jason Marcuz

Weed is slowly but surely being decriminalized and even legalized across the United States. California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis when in 1996 the state legislature passed laws to that effect. In the recent past, more and more states have passed laws legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis.

Can you legally transport cannabis?

There have been concerns about state laws that legalize pot because the federal government is yet to remove cannabis from its list of banned substances. So, is it possible to transport cannabis legally across state lines? The answer, apparently, is no. Federal law, as it currently stands, prohibits the transport of any banned or restricted substance across state lines. Cannabis is currently registered as a controlled substance, together with other hard substances such as LSD and heroin. All these drugs are under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.

You cannot legally transport legal cannabis even between two states that have legalized it. This is puzzling to many people, but the problem is not straightforward. Federal authorities have not agreed to stop enforcing the law against transportation of legal cannabis within their jurisdictions. As soon as pot crosses from one state to another, even where both states legalize its use, matters fall within the federal government. It is the crossing the state border line that puts the process at risk.

Problem is more legal than practical.

To avoid legal issues, legit cannabis must be grown locally, used and sold locally by those who are licensed. However, the risks are more legal than practical. The challenges are more in theory than in practice. Federal authorities have repeated time and time that they will not spend time or resources pursuing legalized cannabis. Chances of federal officials or the DEA sitting across state borders waiting to pounce on someone is unlikely to happen. It is neither practical nor worth the time.

It is essential to understand what legalization and decriminalization mean. Legalization of weed implies that anyone within the jurisdiction of state law will not be arrested, fined or prosecuted if they use it under the law. For instance, a user should be at least 21 years old. Decriminalization, on the other hand, implies that where weed is not legal, anyone who commits a related offense will not be prosecuted or jailed but will most likely face a fine.

State and federal laws on transporting cannabis

In a state where weed is illegal, then transporting it is unlawful. However, where it is legal, then businesses can apply for a license that allows them to transport it from one location to another. According to federal laws, the DEA can enforce the penalties prescribed for trafficking cannabis. Also, under the Supremacy Clause of the US constitution, the federal government could prosecute anyone engaging in weed business, even when the business is legally permitted under state law. The office of the US Attorney General recently released a memo which outlined enforcement priorities regarding weed. The memo does not include the prosecution of individuals dealing in legal cannabis. And that is how the situation is like.