Lena Bartula, a then 71-year-old grandmother suffering from age-related aches and pains, had started using CBD products to support her overall wellbeing. She didn’t think twice about packing her CBD when she set off to visit her granddaughter in Oregon in 2019, but perhaps she should have.
Lena was arrested for travelling with CBD at Dallas Forth Worth International Airport. Although the case was ultimately dropped, she spent the night in the airport jail, “next to the toilet”.
Not exactly a great start to a wonderful holiday, right?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound extracted from industrial hemp plants. It’s growing in popularity in the UK and across the world, and it’s perfectly legal to buy and consume CBD products with a THC content of 0.02 per cent or less in Britain — over the counter, without a prescription.
Most people who choose to add CBD products to their wellness routines opt for CBD oil. Other CBD products — including CBD gummies, capsules, vape pens, creams, tinctures, and energy drinks — are also on the market.
Authorised CBD products are legal in the United Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean that travelling with cannabidiol can’t cause headaches in Britain and abroad. Being an informed consumer (and citizen) is key.
This guide to travelling with CBD products in the UK and abroad isn’t legal advice. We will, however, walk you through some key considerations to stay safe if you want to take your cannabidiol products on holiday with you.
Travelling with CBD in the UK
UK residents can legally purchase and consume CBD products with a THC content of 0.02 per cent or less. These products are classed as novel food products, and consumers don’t need a medical marijuana license to incorporate CBD into their personal wellness routines.
In principle, that means travelling with CBD products is also legally allowed within the UK — whether you travel by car, train, or are among the three million passengers who fly domestically (between London and Glasgow, for example).
However, the same hand luggage restrictions that have been in place for years continue to apply to “liquids” — you can’t take more than 100 ml on the plane in your hand luggage.
What’s with the inverted commas, you ask? “Liquids” are, in this instance, defined more broadly than usual. They include pastes, creams, and oils. That means CBD oil, capsules, creams, tinctures, and similar “moist” products should stay out of your hand luggage.
Airport authorities also reserve the right to confiscate anything they consider suspicious. According to Gov.uk, “airport security staff will not let anything through that they consider dangerous — even if it’s normally allowed in hand luggage”.
International Rules on Travelling with CBD Products
Should you be travelling with CBD products if you’re going abroad? The internet’s full of advice on the topic — whether on websites run by CBD enthusiasts or on forums — but it’s critical to take full personal responsibility in this case.
Each sovereign country and jurisdiction sets its own rules on CBD use, and it’s absolutely essential for UK citizens who plan to travel with any form of cannabidiol to inform themselves before packing their favourite CBD products.
Surveys reveal that European Union countries (in and outside the Schengen zone), the United States, and Turkey are the top 10 travel destinations for UK citizens. Let’s take a look at the legal status of CBD products in these jurisdictions.
CBD in the European Union
European Union countries take a similar legal approach to CBD products as the UK does. Previously authorised CBD products with a THC content of 0.02 per cent or less may be made available for sale. CBD is included in the EU’s Novel Foods Catalogue as of 2019.
However, it is important to note that not all European Union countries have the same view of CBD. France has, for example, made efforts to ban CBD products from sale, although the European Court of Justice ruled that CBD products must not be considered narcotic drugs later.
CBD in the United States
The 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (better known as the “2018 Farm Bill”) made it legal to cultivate hemp and to sell hemp products, including CBD (so long as they adhere to FDA standards).
CBD products are now at least conditionally legal in all US states. However, some states require CBD users to be in possession of a medical marijuana license. As we have already seen, getting into trouble for travelling with CBD products in the United States isn’t out of the question, even while in a state where CBD products with a THC content of 0.03 per cent or less are considered unconditionally legal.
The use of cannabis is illegal in Turkey (Turkiye) and carries a penalty of one to two years in prison. The legal status of CBD products in the country is unclear; local residents may obtain CBD products with a doctor’s prescription, and UK residents travelling to the country won’t have such a prescription.
Travellers would be advised not to bring CBD products into Turkey.
Travelling with CBD: Important Legal Considerations
We cannot offer UK CBD users hoping to bring cannabidiol on holiday any legal advice. It is absolutely vital to remember that laws do change, and that the information you stumble across on the internet may not be accurate.
That applies to:
- Guidance on travelling with CBD products you may find on CBD websites.
- Official guidance on travelling with CBD products, or bringing them into the country, issued by the government of your destination country — but translated with Google Translate or other translation software.
- Outdated official government guidance in English. (Remember the old quote: “A week is a long time in politics.” Even guidance published last month could be outdated.)
What are you to do, then? Here are some general tips.
1. Safest: Don’t Travel with CBD Products
Here’s another scare story. British football coach Billy Hood, from London, was arrested with several bottles of CBD vape oil in Dubai in 2021. Unlike the American grandmother we looked at earlier, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Unless you’re absolutely sure that CBD products are legal in your destination country and that it’s OK to bring them in on your person, it’s better not to travel with cannabidiol.
If you are absolutely sure that cannabidiol is legal in your destination country, you could also opt to order new CBD products from your favourite online CBD store selling authorised products once you arrive.
That ensures you won’t get into trouble at the airport. Some people place THC-containing cannabis oil in CBD oil containers. If you are suspected of doing so, you could be detained while the products are tested.
2. Safe: Use Official Channels to Do Your Research on the Legality of CBD Products
Are you travelling to a non-English-speaking country, and would you like to bring your CBD products with you? Are you having trouble finding adequate legal information on the internet?
Call or email the country’s embassy in the UK. The staff will be able to clarify the current legal situation with regard to CBD products for you. Ask to have this put in writing. You could also opt to consult with an attorney in your destination country before using CBD products there.
Only travel with CBD products if you are satisfied that doing so is legal and risk-free.
If it is not legal to bring CBD products into your destination country, purge your possessions of CBD products before you travel. “I didn’t know that was there” is never a valid legal excuse.
Don’t pack CBD, whether in your hand luggage or checked luggage, if you are travelling to a country with a volatile political climate. As a foreign citizen, you may be singled out for “special treatment”, even if CBD products are generally legal. (Or better yet, don’t travel to politically-volatile countries at all.)
Travelling with CBD: Some Final Tips
Has CBD become an important part of your personal wellness routine, and would you like to continue enjoying cannabidiol on holiday?
Be careful. Be very careful.
If you are travelling domestically, within the UK:
- You should be fine taking CBD products on the train or in your car.
- You’ll be limited to liquid containers (including pastes) of 100 ml if you’ll pass through customs — including if you’re opting for air travel or travelling by ferry.
- Your CBD products may be confiscated if authorities deem them unsafe.
If you’re planning to travel internationally:
- It’s best to double-check the legality of CBD (and travelling with CBD products) with the country’s embassy. That’s true even if you’re travelling to another English-speaking country, such as the United States or Canada, where you already know CBD is legal.
- Do not use CBD products at your destination or travel with them unless you are 100 per cent certain that doing so is legal and risk-free.
- If you are travelling to a country where CBD is legal, you may consider ordering CBD products to be delivered to your destination, instead of taking cannabidiol in your luggage. This reduces the risk of annoyances.