Like it or not, voters of many select states in the U.S. have already decided to legalize marijuana use for adults in one form or another. In the coming years, regulated marijuana dispensaries could become as ubiquitous as liquor stores. But unlike booze, any drivers who go RVing with marijuana across state lines could face hard time if authorities find the substance.
Each year more scientific studies cite the beneficial use of medicinal marijuana for dozens of medical conditions. At the same time, growing numbers of people are choosing to consume, sell or grow it for recreational reasons. Even a 2015 Pew Research Center marijuana study revealed that “many more Americans now favor shifting the focus of the nation’s overall drug policy.”
Marijuana is now legal in some of the nation’s most popular places to go camping and RVing. As of January 1, 2017, pot is legal in the following states:
Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts,
Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C.
Maine voters just opted to legalize marijuana, but pundits say the governor will fight the decision. Twenty-eight states have already legalized medical marijuana, although not all of them have enacted rules governing its use. Canada is also progressing toward nationwide legalization.
What the law says
However, even if the substance becomes legal in every U.S. state, RVing with marijuana across state lines is a bad idea. So, unless the U.S. Constitution changes, it always will be. In an article entitled “Moving Marijuana Across State Lines: Still a Felony,” lawyers from Seattle’s Canna Law Group explain:
“Section 812 of Title 21 of the U.S. Code classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Because our Constitution gives the federal government authority to regulate interstate commerce, it has the ability to prosecute individuals for transporting marijuana across state lines, even if the transport is from one legal state jurisdiction to another.”
For example, let’s say that a RVer purchases marijuana in Washington then travels to Oregon. When they cross that state line, the driver has committed a crime. If authorities find marijuana at a border checkpoint, the federal government views the act as interstate drug trafficking. Whether that driver is carrying one joint or 49 kilograms, the penalties could be identical.
The same federal laws apply to card-carrying medical marijuana users. It might be legal in the state where it was purchased, but driving with medical marijuana — even to another pot-legal state, is still a violation of federal law.
Marijuana, RVs and the Motor Vehicle Exception Clause
Even law-abiding citizens who aren’t RVing with marijuana across state lines are affected. Traveling in and out of pot legal states could be a source of frustration and long travel days for some RVers.
For example, Drivers leaving Colorado are routinely stopped and searched at legally dubious drug checkpoints in neighboring states. Nebraska’s attorney general told the Denver Post “It is not Nebraska’s position to stand idle and watch Colorado’s failed experiment spill over to our state.”
The Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution places strict limits on how police can search a person’s residence. But this law doesn’t apply to recreational vehicles.
Any motor home, travel trailer, camper, or automobile falls under the “Motor Vehicle Exception clause.” In short, the Supreme Court repeatedly rules that police officers have authority to enter a motorhome or travel trailer without a search warrant, provided that the officer has probable cause to believe contraband is on-board.
Whether you’re for it or against it, marijuana tolerance is growing among U.S. and Canadian voters. Many states have yet to define rules and regulations surrounding cannabis use and sales, but unless the U.S. Constitution gets re-worked, RVing with marijuana across state lines will always be illegal.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
mike thomas says
Most of this is if the police know there is a large amount of weed in an RV the driver can’t get out because of probable You and i(not sure about you ;o) will not be hassled because of a small amount for personal use.
The article states twice that the U.S. Constitution would need to change to allow marijuana to legally cross state lines. That’s nonsense – only U.S. federal regulations would need to change. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is not the Constitution, and regulations are frequently changed.
Although it should be obvious, it might be worth mentioning that crossing an international boundary with anything which is illegal to bring into the country which you are entering is a serious mistake… regardless of local regulations regarding its use, or how entitled the holder might feel due to whatever permits they have.
mike thomas says
Thank you. Also as i understand states can change some federal laws regarding their state. Example federal laws says marijuana is illegal California no it is not.
Legally, the Fed could go after any of these states because Federal law trumps state law. But will they? Not at the present time.
States are allowed to make more restrictive laws than the Fed and we see this in every state (especially ones like California), but they aren’t legally allowed to permit activity that is illegal at the Federal level…. they do so anyway
Just to add, Brian is 100% correct.
The author of the article must be thinking about alcohol prohibition and how it took constitutional action to legalize it again.
Marijuana is not restricted by the constitution, it is restricted due to the Fed incorrectly classifying it as a schedule 1 narcotic… insane that the government thinks it should control Pot the same as Heroin, but they do and until that changes, individual states that legalize on their own will be at risk should the leadership at the federal level ever change their position on the drug. Living in Colorado (and being pro-legalization) I’ve been studying this issue for decades.
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Thanks for assisting in this Mark. You are correct.
mike thomas says
Not at the present nor probably ever. The federal Govt. doesn’t really give a squat about people smoking pot
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
You may want to read this Texas Monthly article about a writer who was stopped at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint for having two buds in his shaving kit. While being processed he was handcuffed in a room with a woman who had two joints in her purse.
San Diego cops like to use federal law to make life a living hell for those of us using medical marijuana. It’s illegal for me to transport the marijuana I buy from the dispensary to my home. They won’t pull me over for that, but if I am pulled over for anything and they find my legal marijuana, I will be ticketed and fined.
Your leaving something out.If not you are saying you can not leave the dispensary with your purchase cause once you walk out you are transporting. Somethings wrong.
7. Driving with Marijuana — Vehicle Code 23222(b)
California Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC prohibits driving in possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana. It is a sister provision to the law against driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. Proposition 64 did not change this law.
Driving with marijuana is an infraction. It can be punished by:
up to a $100 fine.16
I think it say’s Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of marijuana without a license is an infraction.)
Seems you left some of this out. It also reads (except for those authorized by law to possess it).
All I know is this, San Diego cops and sheriffs abuse the laws, they ticket or fine whether or not. You need to get a GOOD judge for dismissal of anything in this county. I keep my nose clean.
It’s driving with MORE than 28.5 grams. It reads
If you possess more marijuana than is authorized under California’s recreational marijuana law–that is, more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis–then you are no longer in possession of marijuana “as authorized by law.”
In that case, you may face a fine for driving in possession of marijuana under VC 23222. (You may also be charged with a California misdemeanor under HS 11357.4)
Wow. Several errors in this article. “at the border check point” One error not mentioned yet is that there are NO checkpoints between Washington and Oregon. [The only state I know that has them is California…and they only ask about fruits and veggies, and don’t come on board the RV]. So no one is going to stop you just because you crossed state lines.
Don’t know where the author is from, but doesn’t sound like the US is their home country.
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Actually Jim I am a U.S. born resident and have been full-timing for almost ten years. You are correct, nobody will stop you just because you cross a state line. What I did find in my research, however, is that states like Nebraska and Kansas (which border a pot-legal state) are setting up impromptu “drug checkpoints” and stopping drivers coming from Colorado. While Oregon and Washington may not have checkpoints, it’s possible that Idaho, a non-pot legal state, could in fact set one up if authorities felt like it. The legality of these “drug checkpoints” are hotly debated but for now, authorities do have the power to stop anyone coming from a pot-legal state. Searching their RV is another matter, but if authorities feel there is probable cause that contraband is on board, they have the power to search.
“Never carry more than you can eat”
Source: Texas State Trooper 🙂
Lol, probably the best advice here.
Don’t Eat Your Weed (at least in Texas)
GKN Life says
I agree we must be very careful, if this stays to the intended use. For cancer patients, but I think that the demand would not be big enough for that, then legislation would be done to make it more profitable.
Maria A. Molina says
Good tips. Keep it up 🙂
Marie S. Baer says
Great explanation & perfect tips. Thanks a lot 🙂
Thanks for this guide! A lot of people have made the dire mistake of transporting cannabis over state lines and gotten into big trouble because they didn’t realize the legal repercussions. Until all states or the federal government legalizes marijuana, it’s best to play it safe and keep the plant where it came from.
Ubiquitous? There are more dispensaries in Denver than their are Starbucks and MacDonalds combined.
Free the Weed!
These drug and search laws are only applicable in court. The police do not care. They want a large arrest record for their own edification, not to mention the controversy over arrest quotas. An arrest is not a conviction; that is up to the judge.
It is the time between the arrest and the adjudication that is of concern. You get your RV torn apart in a search, you get handcuffed, arrested, strip-searched, jailed, and then they release you because the “charges” entered by the police don’t hold.
Even if you don’t get the full-on arrest treatment, chances are, if they’ve already gone to the trouble to detain you, they will not let you leave without at least a ticket for something, anything. It is known that cops are particularly instructed to prey on people with out-of-state licenses, because they tend not to want to stick around to fight phony or trumped up charges in local court.
The arresting officer gets his point on his record, the system gets its money, the lawyers get paid, and you may possibly be able to come up with the money to get your vehicle out of impound, minus anything of value you might have had on board.
The fact remains in US justice these days: It does not matter what you actually did or did not do. What matters is the mood the cop is in when he pulls you over. That’s it. End of story.
Isn’t it interesting that it is 100% illegal to transport across state lines a substance that is known never to have caused a single death, while it is perfectly okay now to transport guns, known to kill more than 30,000 people every single year?
Joseph Oravec says
Actually, you are wrong. Again it depends upon the State but, some states will pull you over for something, and if they ask you if you have a Firearm in your possession? If you do, in some states they will arrest you. A woman from New York, was Charged with carrying a Firearm across state lines into New Jersey. This is someone whom lived in the Metro NJ/NY area and would daily cross the boarder. She also had a Conceal Carry Permit issued by New York State. It took Months for her to Fight New Jersey. She did win in the end. Saying the 2nd Amendment does NOT end at State Lines. That is the biggest difference in your argument. The constitution does NOT say, you have the Right to Posses Marijuana. It does say you have the Right to posses (Bear Arms) Firearms. * See 2nd amendment. Automobile Crashes killed more than 40,000 people in 2017. So, you’re “Gun Point” goes right out the window. And also most of the Firearms you cite NEVER crossed state lines in fact up to 22,000 of the 30,000 Gun deaths each year are suicide. Instead of attacking Legal Gun Owners, maybe you should look to what needs to change about Marijuana? That is the way it is classified. The Federal Government needs to Reclassify Marijuana as a Class II drug. It makes no sense to have Marijuana Classified as a Class I drug, when Heroin, Fentanyl & other more addicitve and Fatal drugs are classified as class II drugs.
Joyce Boccella says
hmmm- what about CBD? Even some states that have not legalized Marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes now have “medical CBD laws” (high CBD, low THC)
Jim Gibson says
I agree with this post. Beware of bringing and using cannabis across state lines! Know the law to avoid getting busted.
Jim Gibson says
I’ve been to Colorado. I was impressed with their cannabis laws!
Hey kids. Watch out for those armed checkpoints between states. The lines are long, the dogs’ll smell you every time and before you can even say, “I left my inter-state passport in my other jacket!” you’ll be handcuffed and taken for a nice, long walk.
Joseph Oravec says
What needs to Change? : Marijuana Drug Classification. The Federal Government Classifies Marijuana as a Class I drug. More Fatal drugs like Heroin and Fentinyl are Class II drugs. Marijuana as a Class I drug is a Felony not only to cross state lines with, it is also a Felony to Cross the USA/Canada or USA/Mexico Boarder with Marijuana. No Matter what amount. Even into States that Legalized Marijuana. The Fact the Oregon, and Massachusetts Legalized Marijuana, makes zero difference at the International Boarder, or a Customs Check Point, either in a vehicle, or at an Airport. If you cross from another country (by Boat, Car, Plane, or Train) into the USA with Marijuana. You can be charged with a Felony, just for possessing Marijuana.
Larry Mike says
The writer states it is legal to transport alcohol across state lines legally. While that is true in most places, do not get caught with out-of-state booze in Mississippi. My daughter and some friends (all legal age) were stopped for a minor traffic offence in a small town in Mississippi. They were returning home from a spring vacation on the Gulf. The cop bullied them into admitting they had some alcohol in their possession even though no one had been drinking. After he looked the six pack over he got them to admit they had purchased the beer in Kansas before they left and they all were ticketed and paid $300 fines for being in possession of un-taxed alcohol. I think it was a phony charge but it did happen.
I contacted a local Mississippi attorney and he said the cost of fighting it would exceed the fine and might not be successful.
BTW coming back from Colorado into Kansas last year we saw a drug checkpoint on I-70. It was closed when we came through.
Mike Reilly says
Back in the 90s Pennsylvania would pay a reward to Maryland stores that sold beer,, etc. for reporting license plates of people who were driving cars with PA plates. Your purchase was confiscated and you were fined. I have no idea if that is still the case but be careful.
Jennifer Smith says
Very informative article! Now we are talking sensible!
Karen Page says
I totally understand and agree that “Traveling in and out of pot legal states could be a source of frustration and long travel days for some RVers.” Got to be cautious. Nice post!
Dan Collins says
There are still a lot of things that need to be more clearer when it comes to the legalization of Marijuana. I hope the government would educate the people more about it.