Health & Wellness

Cleared for Takeoff? Here’s How the TSA Treats CBD

By Josh Hall
Ken Yam/Unsplash

The events of September 11 shook our nation to its core and set off a chain of changes that still affects the way we travel today. The friendly skies are still just as welcoming, but the process of getting off the ground is more involved than it was a few decades ago. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since passenger safety should always be the top priority, but these beefed-up security measures can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. To start, the agency responsible for that screening—the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—was created as a response to the 9/11 attacks.

Pat-down protocols, quantity-based liquid bans, and restrictions on boarding planes with a blade (check your razors, guys) have all become a common occurrence for air travelers. If you can’t even bring a full-size bottle of mouthwash on a plane, it got us thinking about how the TSA would handle cannabidiol (CBD).

Benefits of using CBD while flying

Before we get into how the TSA feels about CBD, let’s talk about why someone may want to carry it on a plane in the first place. According to reports, nearly 20% of adult Americans are anxious about flying, and another 12% are afraid to fly. With about 1.8 million American passengers boarding a plane each day, that equates to a lot of jittery flyers.

About 1 in 3 travelers will actually cancel their plans due to travel-related stress. In a perfect world (we’ll get more into that later), this is where someone might introduce CBD. That’s because many people have credited CBD for creating a calming effect on their nerves, particularly during times of stress or high anxiety. In a survey we conducted on traveling with CBD, 97% of respondents said CBD made their travel experience better.

CBD’s analgesic effects, or its ability to fight pain, tends to be the first benefit mentioned by its users. However, scientific research has indicated CBD’s ability to reduce social anxiety, and the compound has been used in treatment plans for generalized anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Is it illegal to carry CBD on a plane?

People who struggle with anxiety before boarding a plane will often resort to taking prescription medications or over-the-counter sleep aids to either numb their fears or snooze through them. If you’re one of these types of travelers, you may be wondering if CBD is OK to carry on a plane—and the answer is that it depends. Unfortunately, like a lot of circumstances surrounding CBD, things are still a bit hazy.

Recently, the agency updated their website to reflect new rules that allow legal hemp-derived CBD oil. Hemp products are allowed “as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law.”

The issue is that hemp products can easily be confused with marijuana products.

One thing that we do know is that marijuana and cannabis-infused products, which technically does include CBD oil, are illegal under federal law. On its official website, the TSA says that its officers are “required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and cannabis infused products.” This means the TSA could potentially detain you for carrying CBD oil through a security checkpoint.

But here’s where the lines get a little blurred. The TSA openly states that they don’t actively perform searches for the possession of marijuana (or a cannabis-infused product), but if they observe it during a screening, the TSA will refer the matter to law enforcement. Ultimately, the TSA agent has the final ruling on whether an item makes it through security.

What to do if you decide to travel with CBD

While it’s unlikely that the presence of CBD oil will result in problems with the TSA, whether or not you carry it on with you is a decision you’ll have to make based on your comfort level. If you do opt to run it through security, always remember the TSA liquids rule that says containers 3.4 ounces or larger are not permitted. In addition, you should pack all allowable liquids in a clear, quart-sized bag, and be prepared to remove it from your luggage prior to placing it on the security conveyor belt.

Alternatives to flying with CBD

If the thought of potentially fielding questions from the TSA about your CBD causes as much stress as flying does, it’s probably a good idea to not bring it with you. But there are alternative ideas that can help you battle the stressors of traveling without having your CBD on you. It might be a bit cumbersome, but you can always have your supply shipped to you once you reach your destination—but that doesn’t help much while you’re en route. The most obvious answer is to make sure you dose before leaving for the airport. By taking capsules or gummies, you can slow down the time it takes for the CBD to enter your bloodstream, which means you may be able to time it perfectly for takeoff.

Parting words on CBD and the TSA

Despite the fact that CBD does not supply the same “high” that is associated with products containing THC, it remains under scrutiny by the TSA. But for many people, the reward outweighs the risk. In that survey we conducted, 57% of our respondents said they were not concerned about the risks involved with taking CBD into an airport or boarding their flight with it. CBD can be a wonderful way to manage the stress and anxiety one feels while traveling, but as always, consult your local laws and speak with your physician before dosing to conquer stress or anxiety.

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