Now that four states have legalized recreational marijuana and another twenty or so states have legal medical marijuana regimes, we are hearing people talk about how taking their legal pot across state borders by car or by air is no big deal. Unfortunately, it is a big deal. A really big deal.
It should first be noted that possession of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of twenty-one will not be legal in Oregon until its new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015. Possession in Oregon until that point must be in accordance with Oregon’s current medical marijuana laws.
More importantly, taking marijuana from one marijuana legal state to another — even though both jurisdictions legally allow for recreational marijuana use — still constitutes a federal crime. Section 812 of Title 21 of the U.S. Code classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Because our Constitution gives the federal government authority to regulate interstate commerce, it has the ability to prosecute individuals for transporting marijuana across state lines, even if the transport is from one legal state jurisdiction to another
This is not to say that we should expect FBI agents to be sitting at the borders waiting to arrest people for going from one state to another with marijuana, but this is to say that traveling from state to state with marijuana is not advised and that doing so by commercial airlines is still out of the question. This is also a good time to remind everyone to clear out their cars, their clothes and their luggage before going from a cannabis legal state to one that is not. State troopers in states like Nebraska and Kansas and Idaho know full well that there is easy money to be made by snaring people entering with marijuana from Colorado and Washington.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that possessing cannabis within a state that deems it legal for recreational purposes still violates federal law. Although the feds have emphasized that enforcement will not be a priority in states with tightly regulated recreational or medical marijuana regimes, they have never said that they will look the other way when interstate transport is involved.
So just don’t.
It is important to be aware that transporting any Schedule I Controlled Substance, including marijuana, across any state line is a federal felony. This is the case even if your medical marijuana patient card is honored in the next state over, and even if you are moving between jurisdictions that have legalized recreational marijuana. Keep and consume your cannabis in the state where you purchased it, or run the risk of federal criminal charges for transporting a controlled substance.