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Travelling With Medical Cannabis in Australia (Locally)

If you are a legal medical cannabis patient you have the right to travel with your medicine. Prescribed cannabis is no different from any other medication, with few exceptions (vaping, for example). In this article, you’ll learn how to travel within Australia with your medical cannabis.

Medicinal cannabis is legal Australia wide. And, as of 1 Feb 2021, low dose CBD is now legal over the counter. In the very early stages of legalisation, most medical cannabis products were oil-based. Travelling by car or plane interstate with legal cannabis oil feels safer than with bud/flower.

Now that there are over 150 cannabis products available to patients, many of them flower, patients are more concerned about interstate travel with their medication. And, fair enough. Our driving laws are still completely discriminatory regarding medicinal cannabis patients, and there are stories about cannabis patients being mistreated weekly.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about travelling interstate within Australia with your medical cannabis. We were lucky enough to speak with practising lawyer Andrew Dowling. Andrew answers the following questions for you:

Can patients travel within Australia with medical cannabis?

Yes. All States in Australia legalised cannabis for medical purposes. You are permitted to carry your medication between States and Territories. This includes travelling with CBD oil and all other forms of medical cannabis. All jurisdictions in Australia have now been harmonised with the Federal or the Commonwealth Narcotics Act.

So, if you have a legal prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner, it is legal for you to travel with your cannabis medicine, like any other medication interstate. It’s good practice to make sure you have your script and an ID to match.

It is, however, advised that you carry paperwork with you to support the fact that you have it legally.

What if you’re prescribed flower?

Whether you’re flying with flower or driving across borders, as long as you have a prescription, you are legally allowed to travel between Australian States and Territories with your medical cannabis.

Can a patient fly with medical cannabis in Australia?

Yes. A patient may carry their legally prescribed medical cannabis on flights within Australia. Whether you are prescribed an oil, tablet, flower (bud) or other product, you may take that on the aeroplane.

“You might find yourself at an airport attracting the attention of sniffer dogs if you’re carrying flower. But, the way our legal framework is structured, by having a prescription from a medical professional for a specific product, you are permitted to have that product with you.”

It’s important to note that if you have purchased cannabis via an online shop or overseas, it is probably not legal. So, make sure that you’re only travelling with a product that you’ve obtained legally with a prescription via a pharmacy.

Carrying on vs checked baggage

“I did some research, and as far as I can tell, there are no guidelines on this. I’m not sure that one method is better than the other.”

Because Andrew wasn’t able to provide any specific legal information around this, we’ll give you two different perspectives:

Carrying your medication with you

Some people may need to take their medication while in the airport or on the flight. In this case, you don’t have much choice. While you run the risk of being stopped and providing your script and identification, you know where your medication is and can be sure it won’t go missing without your knowledge.

My wife and I have travelled interstate with flower and oil products in carry-on luggage and have never been stopped or asked about our prescriptions.

Putting your medication in checked baggage

If your medication is in your checked baggage, you won’t have access to it until you pick it up at your destination. You do also run the risk, although low, of your baggage going missing.

The other thing that is of slight concern is a random security check or your bag being flagged by a sniffer dog. If you are not with your medication and the bag is searched, you run the risk of your medicine being confiscated. Noting that we are not saying this is correct or fair, there is the possibility it may happen.

What documents should you carry when travelling with medical cannabis?

“Your legally prescribed cannabis product should have an official pharmacy label on it that outlines the patient name, prescribing healthcare professional’s name, your dose and the pharmacy. Matching your prescription with an ID is a straightforward way for law enforcement to confirm your product is legal.”

The only legal requirement is that you can prove your medication is lawfully prescribed. You can do that by showing your prescription, which is on the medication container or bottle. However, as Andrew said, you can never be too prepared. We recommend that you take the following documentation so that you have multiple ways of backing up your medical cannabis:

  1. Medication in the original bottle or container, which has the pharmacy label (with your prescription).
  2. A note from your prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner outlines the medication you’re prescribed and your dosage. If you’re bringing a vape, it’s also worth asking the doctor to list the vape in the letter.
  3. If approved via the SAS pathway, have a copy (can be digital) of your approval letter for the medications with which you’re travelling.

Having all this information makes it very clear to authorities that you are allowed to have cannabis. It may also bring you more peace of mind when travelling.

What if you need to bring a vape?

Andrew said, “The scope of what you are allowed to carry is what’s in the scope of the prescription. So, whatever your doctor has prescribed is what you’re allowed to travel with.”

There are two vaporisers registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) – the Volcano Medic and Mighty Medic. As a result, it’s safe to assume that they are ‘highly recommended’ by the TGA. However, the TGA writes:

“If vaporised cannabis is to be used, it is recommended that those [vaporisers] which have been studied in a research setting and found to be safe and feasible are chosen for use.”

You can probably tell by now that your vaporiser isn’t ‘prescribed’, which leaves us with a grey area. Andrew said, “The scope of what you’re allowed to carry is what’s in the scope of your prescription. So, to the extent that your doctor authorises the device you’re using to consume your medication, you should be okay.”

Because of this grey area, Andrew very highly recommended that patients ask their doctor to note in their letter that the doctor knows and has approved your use of a vaporiser. The team at honahlee recommends you ask your doctor to list the exact vaporiser name (and model number if possible) in your letter.

Can you take your medication (including vape) at the airport?

“If you have a legal prescription and supporting documents, then you should be able to medicate at the airport. We don’t stop people from taking other medications at the airport. However, with vaping, if you’re around other people, you need to be mindful that your vapour could affect others around you. You have the prescription, and they’re not supposed to be having what you’re having.”

If you’re taking oil or edible of some sort, there is absolutely no issue with medicating at the airport. If you’re vaping medication in a public place, it’s important that make sure no one else is around. 

While people will often say you can vape medical cannabis in smoking areas – this is not necessarily true. Smoking cigarettes is legal, and individuals lingering in a smoking area are consenting to cigarette smoke. Medical cannabis is prescribed to an individual, and the vapour and residual, combusted cannabis, may get into other people’s lungs or mouth. So, if vaporising your medication at the airport you must do this away from others.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the TGA does not support smoking and therefore if you are smoking your cannabis, there may be scope for law enforcement to stop you.  

Is there specific cannabis storage patients should use when travelling?

While there is no ‘legal’ answer to this question, the answer is still – Yes. You should keep your medicine in the original container it came in when you first received it from the pharmacy or supplier. The packaging your cannabis medicine arrives in should meet Australian medical packaging standards. 

Keeping it in the original packaging also means that the cannabis will have your personal information, doctor’s information and your ‘script’ on it.

“It’s not like the laws we have concerning firearms. For example, it must be secured and stowed in a certain way.

This is a very non-legal observation. I’m sure some people reading this will have travelled with a bottle of wine which they didn’t seal properly. And, they arrived at their destination and had Shiraz all over their shirts. You don’t want to be in a situation like that. So, when travelling with oil or tincture, make sure it secure or bubble wrapped or something that means it won’t leak.”

Recap: Tips for airline travel with medical cannabis

Cannabis is still quite taboo in Australia, and there are police and other law enforcement who still don’t know that any form of cannabis is legal. Here are some tips for travelling with your medical cannabis between States and Territories in Australia

  1. Ensure the product you are taking with you is a legal, medical cannabis product and that you have support for that product in the form of a prescription (physical or digital).
  2. Keep your medication in the original, labelled packaging with your name, doctor’s name and dosage.
  3. If you’ve gone through the SAS pathway, ask your doctor for the TGA approval letter and have it available.
  4. Ask your doctor to write a letter of support that outlines the medications prescribed, your dosage and the product formulation (oil vs flower). And, if you have a vape, ask them to list the vape along with the vape serial number if possible.

Remember, if prescribed, you do have the right to carry your medication with you. However, there’s no such thing as too much preparation for travelling with medical cannabis. The better prepared you are, the better you’ll be if you do get questions and the more relaxed you can be heading through the airports or border checkpoints.

Information

andrew dowling altmed founder headshot
Andrew Dowling

Andrew is a lawyer and the co-founder of CBD Pharmaceuticals and AltMed. Andrew follows legal developments abroad regarding the regulation of cannabis. He is keen to see legal reform in Australia that improves patient access to plant-based medicines.

tom brown author headshot
Tom Brown

Tom is a co-founder of honahlee, startup junkie, a cannabis enthusiast and a digital marketer. His interest in cannabis began as a teenager growing up in New York. Tom loves to trawl through cannabis research, documenting cannabis truths and myths. He started honahlee to help reduce the stigma around cannabis in Australia by educating people about the many uses of the plant.

Disclaimer

The team at honahlee are not doctors and are not providing medical advice. Neither Andrew Dowling nor the honahlee team are recommending the use of marijuana (cannabis) for medical or adult use purposes. Cannabis does not work for everyone and may have negative side effects. In Australia, medical marijuana (cannabis) is regulated by the TGA. If you think cannabis is right for you, please consult with your doctor or specialist.

The contents of this article and accompanying video do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice or other professional advice in relation to any particular matters you or your organisation may have.