EducationEurope: Travelling with medical cannabis

Europe: Travelling with medical cannabis

12 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Contents

Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice and should not be solely relied upon. It is crucial to thoroughly review the current travel advice for each country before making any travel arrangements or embarking on a journey with medical cannabis.  


Europe is a fantastic continent where ancient castles and cathedrals majestically meet modern cities and beautiful beaches, offering almost any kind of adventure you could dream of. We’d love for everyone to have the opportunity to explore different European cities like Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, or Amsterdam, and a medical cannabis prescription shouldn’t get in the way of this. 

But, we are aware that trying to navigate international regulations surrounding the transportation of medical cannabis can take the sparkle out of planning a holiday. So, we’ve created this article to establish the facts, and bring some of that excitement back.

As always, we emphasise the importance of contacting the destination’s Embassy before travelling to gain the relevant approvals, as well as checking with the airline or transportation provider you are planning on using. When travelling, we’d advise keeping a letter from your doctor, a paper copy of your prescription, and the medication in its original packaging in your hand luggage for ease at the airport. 

Read on more for guidance given by officials in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands for travelling to their country with a controlled medicine, so that you can start daydreaming about your next getaway today!

Medical Cannabis and Spain 

If Spain’s fabulous foods, flamenco music and Fiestas are calling your name, or you’re manifesting relaxation in Madrid, adventure in Barcelona, or reinvigoration in Ibiza, you may be happy to hear that medical cannabis is legal in Spain. 


Medical cannabis patients wishing to visit Spain and take their medication with them are advised by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to speak to the Spanish Agency of Drugs and Health Products. By contacting estupefacientes@aemp.es, patients can apply for a permit that allows them to carry medicines that contain narcotic or psychotropic substances into the country – like medical cannabis.

This is to ensure travellers and visitors abide by Article 74 of Royal Legislative Decree or BOE, which allows for the importation of these medicines by individuals, so long as it has been authorised. 

Before seeking authorisation, patients should speak with their prescribing clinician to request a personalised letter or certificate that has been signed and stamped, explaining the type of medication they will be travelling with, and why it is needed. The medication's international name, concentration and active substance contents, prescribed dosage and reasoning behind this, as well as the prescribing clinician’s details and registration number should all be contained in this letter or certificate. 


Sanskara, a UK medical cannabis education patient platform, reiterate this, and advise that in the email to the Spanish Agency of Drugs and Health Products, patients and prospective travellers should attach a PDF copy of this letter or certificate. The patient’s email should outline their travel plans and expected length of duration, as well as all their personal information including their full name, date of birth and passport number.

Trying to travel to Spain with medical cannabis without gaining these approvals and authorisations could lead to a heavy fine and possible imprisonment. It is imperative that these steps are taken before attempting to enter Spain whilst carrying medical cannabis. 

Medical Cannabis and The Netherlands.

As a medical cannabis patient, exploring Amsterdam’s well-known cannabis culture may very well be featured on your bucket list, alongside soaking in the Netherlands’s rich history, smelling their fresh tulips and staring in awe at its colossal windmills. It is definitely a destination worth visiting. 

In the Netherlands, medical cannabis has been legal since 2003 and the recreational consumption of cannabis is considered decriminalised. In Amsterdam, adults over the age of 18 are permitted to purchase and consume cannabis in licensed coffee shops, but smoking or vaping cannabis in public spaces is prohibited and those caught doing so could receive a fine. 

Medical cannabis patients wishing to visit the Netherlands and take their medication along are advised on the Customs website to contact the embassy for further information and authorisation. In the Netherlands certain medications, including medical cannabis, fall under the Opium Act, and so they need to be accompanied by a medical certificate when being carried across the border. 

The Netherlands Government website breaks down travelling whilst carrying medication into four easy steps. The first step is to check whether you need a certificate to travel into the Netherlands with your medicine, which is true in the case of medical cannabis. Step two is to get an approved travel certificate, which can be issued by your doctor or pharmacy, that explains the need for you to travel with cannabis-based medicines.

The third step is to have this certificate legalised if required, which is the case when travelling from certain countries. Their Government suggest speaking with customs to find out if the country you are travelling from is included in this category. And finally, after checking the rules of the airports and the airline – the last step is actually travelling. Here patients are reminded to pack all medication in its original containers, alongside the relevant and approved documents and certificates, in their hand luggage. 

Medical Cannabis and France

Famous for its Capital being the city of Love, and romanticised in films for decades, France is a dream destination for many. With fabulous fashion, endless cheese choices, and wonderful wine, France tantalises your all sensations, creating an immersive atmosphere and incredible experience. 

And this is an experience that is open to all, including medical cannabis patients. Although currently, unless taking part in the national medical cannabis experiment, residents in France can only be prescribed cannabis-based medicines in the form of Sativex, this restriction should not restrict patients from abroad travelling to France with their prescribed medical cannabis. 

The French customs website defines a medicinal product as “any substance or combination of substances presented as possessing curative or preventive properties with regard to human or animal diseases”. Or, “any substance or combination of substances that may be used in or administered to humans or animals in order to make a medical diagnosis or to restore, correct or modify their physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action”. This is according to the French Public Health Code Article L 5111-1.

Travelling into France whilst carrying medicinal products is permitted, so long as the quantity being imported is compatible with the prescribed amount for therapeutic use and the duration of stay. Narcotic or psychotropic drugs, like medicinal cannabis, can only be imported into France by the person they were prescribed to, and the quantities should be in line with dosage requirements or less than a one-month supply. 

When travelling from outside the Schengen Area, for example from the UK, it is advised to also carry a copy of the prescription that details the type, name, and dosage of the medication prescribed to present at customs.

The French Consulate website further explains that when travelling from other countries within the EU, custom formalities are ‘suppressed’ and so patients carrying medications from these areas may not necessarily need to provide the same supporting documents required by those outside the EU. 

Medical Cannabis and Germany

If Germany’s decadent architecture, palaces, and castles are of more interest to you, why not explore the cobblestones of Cologne or Munich, or get lost in the vivid colours and vibrant atmosphere that sweeps the streets of Berlin? Delve into the country's rich history, or hop on and off their world-famous public transport system and travel from city to city to see the sights your heart is set on.

In Germany, the legalisation of medical cannabis took place in 2017. CMS Law states that when medicinal cannabis is imported from outside the EU it must have authorisation pursuant to the German Medicinal Product Act if it is imported by a business, but there is no mention of whether this also applies to individuals.

However, according to the Sanskara Platform, when travelling to Germany, medical cannabis patients are able to import cannabis for their own personal use (and up to a 30-day supply), so long as their doctor has gained the relevant approvals

The German Customs website explains that the movement of medicinal products is governed by the German Medicinal Products Act. When crossing into Germany, travellers can bring medicinal products in the appropriate quantities to meet their personal needs, but those that fall under the Narcotic Drugs Act have special provisions surrounding their importation or transportation, and this includes medical cannabis.

When entering Germany from outside the Schengen area, passengers should carry a multilingual certificate issued by their prescribing physician.  Details about the patient and prescribers should be included, as well as the medication's active ingredients and daily dose recommendations. This certificate then must be authenticated by the competent health authority of the country of provenance before attempting to travel. 

Medical Cannabis and Italy.

Italy is known for its incredible scenery, ancient architecture and rich history, with city gems like Milan and Rome pebbled throughout the country, framed by beautiful beaches in areas like Sicily, Sardinia and the Amalfi Coast. But, what you may not know about Italy, is that cannabis was legalised for medicinal purposes in 2007, and decriminalised for recreational use in 2014.

In Italy, the Decree of the Ministry of Health 2007 dictates regulation for those travelling with medical preparations that contain internationally controlled drugs, like medical cannabis.  In order to travel into Italy with a medical preparation that contains narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, the passenger must have evidence that it was lawfully obtained in the country they are departing from.

According to the Ministry of Health in Italy, an official certificate issued by a patient’s clinician and then approved by the health authority in the country of residence is the recommended evidence.

This certificate must include information relating to the country and place of issue, the prescribing physician’s details and the patient's personal and travel information. The medications' information, including dosage, concentration, and international names of active substances, must also be included, as well as details of the certificates' issuer.

We’d also recommend getting in touch with the Italian Embassy via email on ambasciata.londra@esteri.it, to ask for their direct approval, as well as contacting the company you are planning on travelling with for  further guidance to ensure that you have the smoothest trip possible. It is also worth mentioning that although medical cannabis is legalised in Italy, and has been recreationally decriminalised, taking or administering cannabis in public is considered an offence, and does come with a financial penalty attached.


Closing Considerations 

Although medical cannabis regulations vary across European countries, we’ve selected these five dream destinations because they have two things in common: they all have medical cannabis programs in place for their residents, and they have frameworks in place to welcome medical cannabis patients from abroad. 

We’d recommend travellers seeking to explore Europe with medical cannabis engage with the respective embassies and obtain the necessary permits and certifications a number of weeks before their planned departure date, to ensure everything is in place well in advance. 

It is equally crucial to ensure that the individual also receives approval from the relevant airline or transportation provider they are travelling with before attempting to take their medication on board, this is to avoid potential prosecution or medication confiscation. 

By following this guidance and the guidelines provided, medical cannabis patients can plan their European adventure without compromising their medical needs, and enjoy a smooth and safe journey, and hopefully the holiday of a lifetime. For further guidance about travelling with medical cannabis or cannabis-based medicines, check out our Professional Guidance section, or Continental Cannabis Guide for destination inspiration.  


Our aim is to provide you with relevant information to help you to make better-informed decisions when travelling with your prescribed medical cannabis, but we cannot provide any guarantees, conditions, or warranties as to the accuracy of the information in this article. It is a general guide only and not a substitute for obtaining your own legal advice.

Accessing medical cannabis can be challenging due to the stigma surrounding it. However, Releaf makes it simple with our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your cannabis prescription

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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Further reading

The Continental Cannabis Guide: Medical cannabis-friendly countries

For some patients, medical cannabis really is a lifeline and is therefore a necessary component in the holiday of a lifetime. So that you don’t have to choose between your health and a holiday, we’ve put together this guide that explains which countries currently have medical cannabis policies in place.

Lucy MacKinnon

Medical cannabis on holiday: The basics

Here at Releaf we understand that holidays should be about relaxation, but travelling with medical cannabis sounds like a stressful voyage. We’re doing what we can to absorb that stress so that you can soak up the sun, and so, we’ve designed a series of articles to cover the subject: medical cannabis on holiday. 

Lucy MacKinnon