Whether you’re coming in from out of state to enjoy endless West Coast splendors or fleeing the urban sprawl of Los Angeles or San Francisco for greener pastures – it’s not a true trip unless you’ve got some buds to come along for the ride. We’re not just talking about friends… Your favorite cannabis product should also be a part of the travel itinerary.
For both medicinal and recreational purposes, weed is fully legal in the state of California. But that doesn’t mean that tokers and tourists can smoke freely on the open road. When taking a drive through the majestic Yosemite mountains or curating your social media feed with Palm Springs photos, it’s important to know the laws and regulations surrounding cannabis possession and use.
To help you safely navigate through The Golden State, here’s our complete guide to traveling with weed in California.
Road Trippin’: Traveling By Car With Weed
With recreational cannabis readily available throughout the state, one may not think twice about the potential ramifications of driving through California with their stash – especially if it’s been purchased legally.
For starters, you can’t drive around with copious amounts of pot bulging from your trunk. In California, the legal amount you can have in a car is less than 1 ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana or less than 4 grams of concentrates. The driver must also be at least 21 years old.
It may seem like common sense to some but should be stated regardless: cannabis products should not be consumed before or while someone is at the wheel. Operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana isn’t the only way to steer yourself into the legal danger zone. Even if you haven’t indulged, you also can’t have an open container.
Health and Safety Code Section 11362.3, which is written into Proposition 64, the law that legalized adult-use cannabis in California, states that it’s illegal to “possess an open container or open package of cannabis or cannabis products while driving, operating, or riding in the passenger seat or compartment of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation.”
While driving, your weed should be properly stashed in a sealed airtight container and preferably placed in the trunk. Even if you haven’t indulged, the smell of marijuana could prompt a police officer to search your vehicle or conduct a sobriety test. Conservative or dry counties in California may treat the smell or possession of cannabis with more scrutiny than somewhere like Los Angeles. So, you should always be aware of the area you’re in while cruising around the state.
When traveling by car from California to another state – even a surrounding state with legalized recreational cannabis like Nevada or Oregon – it’s technically illegal to cross the border with cannabis due to the border being in federal jurisdiction. The risk might be low when crossing over from one adult-use state to another (especially if you’re carrying a relatively small amount for personal use), but worth noting regardless.
Even when staying within the confines of California, the laws vary depending on where you happen to be at the time. For example, driving into one of the state’s majestic national parks will technically put you under federal jurisdiction. Since cannabis is still a Schedule I substance on the federal level, this would make possession illegal once you enter federal territory.
The legal lines get even more blurred when dealing with rental cars. Some car rental businesses may have rules against possessing cannabis in their cars, even in a green safe haven such as California. Leaving behind a dank trail in your Hertz rental could land you a hefty fine or loss of a security deposit. You should consult with your rental car company and explore potential consequences before packing weed in your rental.
If you’re planning to take an Uber or another car-sharing service across town, you should also be wary of company guidelines that could get you kicked to the curb or banned from the app altogether. Remember, just because cannabis is legal in California doesn’t mean you can transport it without repercussions, especially when taking a ride through a private company.
Can You Fly By Plane With Weed?
When it comes to bringing your stash first-class on an airplane, the laws are much more straightforward…and stricter.
In California’s most bustling airport, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), visitors aged 21 or older are allowed to possess the state’s legal limit of cannabis. However, once you approach security and prepare to board your flight, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may take issue with your legally purchased cannabis.
Although the TSA has publicly stated that “security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs” during a security screening, they are still required to report violations of the law to local law enforcement. In an adult-use state like California, this would likely lead to an officer asking you to dispose of your cannabis rather than prosecution, but it’s probably not worth missing your flight or dealing with other unnecessary consequences.
If you do manage to get through security with a vape pen or pre-roll and board a flight, you’re now entering the territory of the FAA, which essentially controls federal airways. Even on an in-state flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for instance, it’s technically illegal to possess cannabis on the plane due to federal laws.
All in all, the wisest move is to leave your cannabis at home and legally purchase some more when you arrive at your planned adult-use destination.
Traveling By Train or Bus With Cannabis
There are a bevy of trains and bus lines that can take you around the California terrain, but whether you can bring cannabis along for the ride is ultimately decided by the transportation service.
Even in California, train services like Amtrak and numerous privately operated bus companies, such as Megabus or Greyhound, have been known to have a strict policy forbidding possession or use of cannabis.
If you’re planning to bring cannabis on a train or bus service, you should check the company’s rules or consult with a customer representative to ensure that you don’t get into any trouble during your in-state excursion.
How to Legally Store Cannabis While Traveling in California
The safest way to store your cannabis while traveling is in a sealed, airtight container. Containing the odor of your dank will keep any suspicious noses from giving you a hard time, so keep your kind buds in its original odor-proof packaging or one of the various smell-proof storage products you can find at a local head shop.
While the laws surrounding traveling with cannabis in California may seem complicated, a good general rule of thumb is to never carry an open container and don’t bring your stash anywhere that’s considered federal jurisdiction, whether that be a national park or domestic flight.
Even in situations where cannabis possession is fully permitted, such as in your vehicle, it’s best to keep it tucked away in your trunk or an area where the odor is properly concealed.