On Oct. 1, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) relaxed its rules for screening passengers traveling with medical cannabis.
In Canada, medical cannabis patients have been able to fly domestically with their medicine for some time now. However, one of the challenges in traveling with cannabis was the added time it took to get through security if medical marijuana was found.
Previously, if cannabis was discovered during baggage checks, the traveler was asked to present proper documentation and a police officer was summoned to examine everything. This added a significant amount of time to the boarding process. Adding to the issue, there has been a dramatic increase of medical marijuana patients in Canada in the last year.
“There was definitely exponential growth in the number of passengers traveling with medical marijuana,” said Mathieu Larocque, spokesperson for CATSA, in an interview with Marijuana.com. “We went from less than 150 [checks] five years ago, to 3,000 in the first part of this year.”
Larocque added that calling a police officer to evaluate the situation was always the protocol until the beginning of this month. “Prior to Oct. 1, our procedure was to call the police at the airport and ask [them] to validate the documentation of the passenger.”
Due to the increasing demand on law enforcement and the added wait for passengers, Larocque said CATSA made some modifications. “We’ve decided to change the procedure to make it easier for passengers traveling with their medical marijuana. The new procedures as of Oct. 1 are to present your documentation [only] to the screening officer.”
By transferring the responsibility to the screening officer for this procedure, Larocque says it saves everyone time and money. “We just want to make sure there is documentation and if there isn’t we still call the police. [But] having to call the police every time wasn’t a very good use of resources.”
Larocque went on to point out that CATSA also calls law enforcement if the government-regulated 150-gram limit is exceeded and security has been trained to spot large amounts. “We gave some tips to screening officers. Basically, we have these one-liter bags that we provide to passengers to put their little containers of gels and aerosols, so if it appears to be more than that, then it’s likely more than 150 grams and the police will come to verify.”
It is important to point out that these rules apply mainly to domestic travel in Canada and perhaps a small handful of countries where marijuana is legal. “We still remind travelers that if they travel internationally, they need to be sure of the rules at their destination. If you are flying to the U.S. with 100 grams of marijuana, that probably won’t go over very well.”