Mile High Club: The TSA Approves CBD on Flights

The TSA has just updated the "what can I bring?" section on their website to address questions regarding hemp-derived CBD, stating that:

"Products/medications that contain hemp-derived CBD or are approved by the FDA are legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law under the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018."

The Agriculture Improvement Act which the TSA mentions, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, removed hemp from the Schedule 1 category, rendering it legal for farmers to cultivate and distribute hemp crops.

While this gave rise to the booming hemp-based CBD industry, on a federal level in the United States cannabis is still classified as a schedule 1 substance meaning the drug has no accepted medical use and is illegal under any purposes.

And on a state level, the laws are different again. Cannabis is legal for recreational purposes in 10 states and medicinally legal in 33 states. (I thought it had no medical value?)

The enforcement of these laws falls under the jurisdiction of the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) unless cannabis products are infused into foods or beverages, then you're dealing with the FDA – the food and drug administration.

And if you want to take those CBD snacks onto a plane, you'll have to talk with the TSA, the Transportation and Security Administration.

Confused yet?

Welcome to the club.

In order to hash things out from the edible perspective, the FDA is hosting a hearing today on how to regulate CBD across the food and beverages industries given the varying legal statuses of the substance, with 140 people scheduled to testify regarding their stance on CBD.

And the TSA is now clearing the clouds away for air travel involving CBD.



The TSA states that as long as a CBD product is hemp-derived rather than marijuana-derived, it's fine to bring it along with you on your flight.

The announcement follows on from several instances where passengers were arrested for possessing CBD products which they'd likely bought at their local Whole Foods – legally.

According to the Atlantic only a few weeks prior to the announcement, the TSA's apprehension of CBD products had "skyrocketed" at the Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport in the past year.

The spike in arrests was undoubtedly spurred from the confusion surrounding legislation. Passengers could go to their local Walgreens or CVS and pick up a CBD-based product without a hitch, only to be arrested for it at the airport.

Police reports acquired by NBC show that passengers as inoffensive as a 71 year old woman were being arrested on felony charges for possessing CBD products.

Though without the active compound THC, the compound which gets users "high," it was clear that most people bringing CBD onto planes were using it for some kind of pain relief.

In fact, many point to cannabis as a potential alternative to the epidemic of opiate abuse, with companies such as MediPharm trialing CBD to overcome opiate addiction in patients.

Judging by the statement on their website, the TSA has realized this and responded by very much loosening their approach towards cannabis, stating that they won't actively look for marijuana.

"Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer."

With that said, if the TSA finds marijuana products – that is, products containing THC –  passengers may find themselves in some trouble. Despite being legal in several states, marijuana still remains federally illegal.

While most CBD products are very clearly labelled as to whether or not they contain THC, most CBD products do in fact contain traces of THC. And given the scant regulations currently, it's very possible the amounts of THC in certain products could be picked up in an on-the-spot drug test.

On top of this, large amounts of liquids are still prohibited on flights, so anyone jumping aboard the CBD beverage craze will have to shift to oils or gummies during their next flight.


The Global CBD Industry

CBD is one of the compounds found within the Cannabis plant that everyone's talking about. INC. called CBD the "next gold rush." Biotech firms are using it to develop treatments for numerous illnesses, including skin conditions, epilepsy, anxiety, pain, Crohn's disease, and arthritis. CBD is turning up in chocolate, beer, and gummies; in skincare creams […]

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Arguably the biggest motivation behind the air travel organisation's changed stance on cannabis comes from the FDA approval for GW Pharma's 'Epidiolex' received last June. The FDA approval has made 'Epidiolex' a legitimate, prescribed form of medication for those suffering with epilepsy.

"TSA was made aware of an FDA-approved drug that contains CBD oil for children who experience seizures from pediatric epilepsy," the air travel organization stated to Fox News. "To avoid confusion as to whether families can travel with this drug, TSA immediately updated once we became aware of the issue."

To deprive passengers of their medication is the least of the TSA's concerns, whose role largely focuses around preventing terrorism.

Now that the TSA has clarified their stance on cannabis on flights, we'll be looking towards the FDA and their hearing today on CBD and it's place in the food and beverage industry.

The hearing couldn't come at a better time given that earlier this year the FDA sent warnings to 17 companies who used CBD in their products and made unsubstantiated claims about their benefits.

Without having gone through the FDA themselves, the businesses aren't legally allowed to make claims about what the benefits people can experience from their CBD products.

The issue is that only GW Pharma's Epidiolex has currently received FDA approval, a process which can take years and millions of dollars. This is a process very few small businesses can afford.

Today we will find out exactly what businesses can and cannot say when it comes to CBD and it's benefits, as well as whether the compound is allowed in food products at all.

Though if the TSA announcement is anything to go off, it's looking like the FDA will have to relax its stance on cannabis too – the popularity of the plant is too astronomical to stop.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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