The better part of 20 years after the first Canadians were allowed to use medical marijuana, the agency that screens air passengers and their bags has explained how people should fly with their legal pot.
Medical marijuana can be carried in either carry-on or checked bags on domestic flights, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority says, and passengers should bring documents showing their pot is legal. Screeners will ask police at the airport to look at the documents.
As recently as last December, 25-year-old Michael Korchak was denied boarding an Air Canada flight in Halifax because he was carrying medical marijuana. He was carrying all of the correct paperwork.
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Korchak was prescribed marijuana to deal with pain from an injury related to military service. Air Canada has since changed its rules and offered Korchak a refund.
Cannimed, a Saskatoon-based medical marijuana producer, recommends that people not put marijuana in checked bags. Passengers could end up missing a flight if their bag is opened.
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Medical marijuana users should:
- Pack the pot in an easy-to-reach place in carry-on luggage, in the original packaging, with all the documents showing you possess it legally. “If they’re carrying it in their regular luggage and they do a sweep with the dogs, it’s going to get flagged,” explains Brent Zettl, Cannimed’s president. “If it gets flagged without an explanation, they have to inspect it, because they’re still looking for illegal contraband. The idea is that you have it with you so you can explain it up front, with all the paperwork.”
- Call the airline in advance. “Especially in smaller airports – they’re not accustomed to seeing it very often.”
- Tell the security screeners that you’re carrying marijuana.
- Allow extra time for police to be called and for them to look at your paperwork.
Zettl would like to move to a system where screeners are trained to check medical marijuana documents themselves, without having to involve the police.
“You have to sit aside, you have to wait for the police to come, and it causes a delay in their travel plans. The (CATSA) staff have to be trained for this kind of thing, what to look for. They’re not trained to review those medical documents to make sure that they are legitimate. ”
Over 50,000 Canadians are authorized to use medical marijuana, Zettl said.