Traveling with CO Weed? You Can Face Federal Charges

While it may be true that Colorado has legal marijuana, both recreational and medical, there are still limits to where you can take that marijuana. Why? Because federally, marijuana is still illegal. Additionally, other states have not all made marijuana legal either, so you risk some serious drug charges if you cross over state lines with marijuana from Colorado.

There’s a lot to understand about different laws regarding marijuana on both the federal and state level, but it’s worth endeavoring to understand these things so you don’t find yourself in legal trouble. Here’s what you need to know about traveling with marijuana outside of Colorado and what risks you are taking by transporting this substance across state lines.

Federal Laws Regarding Marijuana

Under federal law, marijuana remains illegal. In fact, transporting it can lead to federal criminal charges, but even if the federal government looks the other way in some circumstances, there’s a risk in taking marijuana from one state to another based on laws in other states. Even in states where marijuana is legal, the laws can differ so much that what is legal in Colorado is a crime in other states such as Illinois.

However, federal law has made no changes in the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. Under the federal drug schedule, it’s still considered a Schedule I drug, which puts it on the same level as drugs like heroin and LSD – with no medical use and a high probability of abuse.

It’s important to understand that federal law will always take precedence over state laws when it comes to drugs. That means that even in states like ours where it’s legal, you are still technically violating federal law by possessing it. You don’t hear about people being prosecuted for this because the level of enforcement varies, and the federal government doesn’t seem to prioritize low-level violations surrounding marijuana possession among citizens. However, that doesn’t mean that a federal agent won’t turn you over to the cops in a place where marijuana is not legal and you’ve been caught with it.

Penalties Associated with Federal Marijuana Possession

If you are caught with marijuana crossing over state lines and are prosecuted at the federal level, you can face charges for something such as simple possession. That charge brings with it a penalty of up to one year in prison for a first offense, two years for a second offense, and three years for a third.

What About Flying on a Plane?

There are places within a state where the property is considered to be owned by the federal government. Being caught with marijuana on that federal property can lead to serious legal problems for you.

Airports are under the jurisdiction of the TSA, which is a federal agency. The duties of the TSA don’t involve drug enforcement, but they can call the local authorities or another federal agency if they discover drugs in your bags or on your person.

Additionally, places within a state such as a national forest, national monument, or national park are also considered to be federal property. Having marijuana on these federal properties is illegal and can result in federal drug charges against you.

What About Travel Between Legal States?

As mentioned above, even if you are traveling from one state where marijuana is legal to another legal state, it can be tricky. You are violating federal law, after all, and the laws of each state do differ quite significantly.

Perhaps the largest difference between states is the amount of marijuana you can legally possess. For example, Colorado allows anyone over age 21 to possess two ounces for personal use. Arizona, on the other hand, only allows one ounce for personal use. So, taking two ounces from Colorado – where it is legal – violates the law once you pass into Arizona, where you can be subject to their penalties for having over an ounce.

Traveling and Open Container Laws for Marijuana

Another important aspect to consider when traveling with marijuana is the storage requirements. Again, each state is different when it comes to what it permits under open container laws. You cannot consume marijuana in a vehicle that is moving in many places, nor can you have loose marijuana in your car within the driver’s reach. Violating these laws can land you with a misdemeanor charge in many states.

Also, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime no matter what state you are in, so never consume marijuana and then operate a motor vehicle.

Traveling with marijuana carries with it a lot of risks. If you find yourself in legal trouble, then contact an experienced attorney right away.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.