Can You Cross States Lines With Legally Purchased Cannabis?

It’s against the law to purchase cannabis in a state where it’s legal and then bring it back to use in another state where cannabis remains illegal. Unlike just about anything else you can buy in one state and transport to another, cannabis becomes a crime when you cross state lines.

As has happened in other parts of the country, the warnings on this issue are going out in Pennsylvania this spring as New Jersey prepares to start legal cannabis sales. The message is straightforward: Don’t travel to New Jersey to buy cannabis and then bring it back to use in Pennsylvania.

Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but adult-use marijuana is not. Those in Pennsylvania convicted of possession, sale or distribution, cultivation or having paraphernalia can face both jail time and a fine. For example, possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor that is punishable by 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500.

The potential penalties for growing marijuana are even worse: 2½ to five years of jail time and up to a $15,000 fine.

Why Is It Illegal to Cross State Lines With Legal Weed?

As evidenced by the number of people who leave one state to buy marijuana in another – not to mention those who go on “cannabis tours” in a legal state – the concept of one state’s product being illegal in another state is a foreign one. After all, the states are united, right?

Yes, but not when it comes to marijuana. There are a number of reasons why you can’t buy cannabis legally in one state and use it in another state.

  • Federal law lists marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug. The federal government currently has a policy of not interfering with the states, but transporting something over state lines kicks in federal regulations.
  • States have differing laws. If you live in Harrisburg, Penn., and present your driver’s license to an officer in Newark, N.J., that’s a valid form of ID because the states recognize each other’s laws on this issue. But states have different regulations over the marijuana industry, which typically means that cannabis consumed in a state must have been manufactured and sold in that state in accordance with the laws of that state.

This Has Played Out In Many Places

Of course, a person has to get caught for this to become an issue. So far, it seems to be a crime that people either remain unaware of or have decided to ignore, judging from reports about dispensaries near state borders between legal and illegal states.

For example, people from Indiana buy plenty of cannabis in Michigan. And a county in eastern Oregon has some of the highest sales figures in the state because of people crossing the border from Idaho to make their cannabis purchases.

Also, Texas has not legalized recreational marijuana and has a limited medical marijuana program, but every state surrounding it has legal medical marijuana (and New Mexico recently started adult-use sales). It’s an issue that comes up regularly in the state’s media and in political debates.

Some local leaders have bucked the system. For example, city leaders in Austin have announced they will no longer arrest and prosecute people for possessing small amounts of cannabis. The same could happen in cities in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Indiana and other illegal cannabis states, but until then, it’s best to know when you are breaking the law, even if you have the best of intentions.

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