EducationWhat the professionals say about medical cannabis on holiday

What the professionals say about medical cannabis on holiday

9 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

What the Professionals say about Medical Cannabis on Holiday

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. 

We know that dream holidays can create memories that last a lifetime, and we want to do everything we can to help you make those memories, whilst staying medicated. 

Here we’ve collated advice from the UK Home Office, Government, International Narcotics Control Board, and The Sanskara Platform so that you can scope out the horizons for your next destination. 

As well as reading these resources, the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society suggests starting with a simple Wikipedia search for the ‘legality of cannabis’ is a good place to start. 

Checking with the Embassy of the country you plan on visiting, and any you may be stopping over or transferring in, is the next step, and ensuring you have approval from the authorities and airline is imperative. 

Once these approvals have been gained, there are a number of other steps that need to be followed relating to the packaging and labelling of your medication and accompanying documents. 

We’ve collected all the relevant official information and guidance provided for patients wishing to make this move, and put them together in one extended summary. 

Government Guidance:

If you are considering travelling with medical cannabis, reading the government guidance and information supplied by the UK’s Home Office is the best place to start. The government website explains that certain types of prescription medications are also classed as controlled drugs and therefore named in the Misuse of Drugs legislations. 

When travelling abroad, carrying these kinds of medication can sometimes require a personal licence because of their controlled contents. However, although Cannabis Based Products for Medicinal Use (CBMPs) contain controlled drugs and fall under schedule 2, typically, if the quantity of medication doesn’t exceed a three months supply, personal licences are not required. 

In the UK, a product is classed as a CBMP if it contains cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol, or a cannabinol derivative and is produced for medicinal use in humans. These medicines are classed as schedule 2 substances under The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, those that do not meet these criteria fall under schedule 1. 

Medicines that appear on schedule 5 or schedule 4 (part 2) also do not require a personal licence, but it is still always important to check what schedule your medication is in your destination of choice, as well as contacting their Embassy. 

The Government advises contacting the British Home Office for further advice before travelling, as well as carrying documentation from your clinician proving that the medication has been prescribed for a medicinal purpose. 

A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing doctor will prove the medication is necessary for travel, and should contain the following information:

  • The patient's name and their health related diagnosis’
  • Details of the prescribing clinician and their signature
  • A list of the medication and the quantities that have been prescribed to the patient
  • Information relating to the strength and dosage requirements.

The government website also emphasises the importance of doing your research before departing. Some countries, such as Qatar and The United Arab Emirates, have extremely strict laws, and attempting to import cannabis to these places could result in large fines or imprisonment – regardless of the reason for importation, and so it is imperative to read up on these rules.  

There is also government guidance available for patients who want to travel to the UK whilst carrying controlled drugs such as CBMPs, or for UK residents who have been prescribed a controlled medicine whilst abroad. 

 

Notes from the NHS:

Although the National Health Service in the UK currently prescribes very few cannabis-based products in comparison to private clinics, they do provide useful information that relates to carrying medication abroad, which medical cannabis patients can use as a good starting point. 

The NHS recommends patients who rely on prescribed medications need to plan well ahead for their holiday and inform their doctor or practice nurse of their plans to travel at least two months before their departure date. This should give them enough time to get all the relevant paperwork and approvals in order or make any other necessary special arrangements before they set off. 

When travelling, any kind of medication or medical equipment should be always carried in its original packaging, with the correct labels, and in hand luggage according to the NHS along with a copy of the prescription. 

Patients are also advised to consider packing their medication in hold luggage too, just in case their hand luggage is lost or damaged – although it is important that airline regulations are checked first in case this is not approved. 

The NHS also state that a letter from their doctor or clinician explaining the medication and prescription would be a useful document to travel with, and suggests getting these documents translated into the appropriate language for extra ease when travelling. 

Much like the government, the NHS revisits the importance of researching the regulations of every country you plan to visit, regarding both the legality and restrictions in place when travelling with certain medications.

They explain that controlled drugs, like medical cannabis, have extra restrictions imposed because they are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act legislation in the UK. This means, in some circumstances, personal licences are required to transport these medicines across the border and the NHS refers patients to read the UK Government Guidance on this matter. 


Sanskara suggestions:


The Sanskara Platform is a patient run, patient focused organisation that is committed to helping others understand medical cannabis and develop and improve awareness of its medical value. In July 2023 the Sanskara Platform updated their ‘travel abroad with your cannabis prescription’ information pack, which is filled with helpful tips and tricks for travelling and has been written based on personal experience.

This pack advises patients to firstly get a full health check up before booking anything to make sure it is safe for them to travel. The importance of checking the requirements and regulations in the destination country are also stressed, and contacts for Foreign Embassies are provided so that patients can get in touch with the relevant authorities.

The Sanskara Platform reminds patients that if a three-month supply or more is needed due to the length of travel, medical cannabis patients may also need to apply for an export licence because of cannabis’ controlled drug status. This licence can take at least 10 days to process, and so it is advised that patients apply for this in advance.

The platform also recommends that cannabis-based medicines should be kept in their original pharmacy packaging with the correct labels when travelling. Patients are advised to also carry a physical copy of their prescription and a letter from their prescribing doctor or clinician explaining the medication, its uses, doses, quantity, and concentration for extra ease at the airport. 

Other tips included in this fabulous feature include ensuring you have the appropriate health insurance, have checked all the relevant airline regulations, and packed medication in more than one bag – just in case luggage is lost in transit. 

Generally, patients are advised against buying their medication from another dispensary abroad to avoid purchasing fake, counterfeit or contaminated products, but Sanskara accept that taking your cannabis abroad may not always be an option and advise extreme caution in these cases. 

International classification: 

When discussing professional guidance for taking medical cannabis on holiday, the International Narcotics Control Board’s Green List should also be noted. The INCB release new and updated information relating to psychotropic substances under international control to help governments establish their international drug importation and exportation policies.

In the 33rd edition of the Green List, published in 2022, tetrahydrocannabinol is listed as a schedule 1 substance and CBD does not appear due to its lack of psychoactive properties. The THC-based medicine Dronabinol also features on the Green List, but as a schedule 2 substance as opposed to a schedule 1.

The scheduling of these cannabinoids and chemicals are in accordance with the decisions made at the Convention of Psychotropic Substances in 1971. Here, 75 official representatives or observers for nations around the world met in Vienna to decide on a universal stance on the scheduling of these substances. 

By having a universal stance, the INCB assist individual nations to create and enforce regulations and policies. This ensures the international importation and exportation of these substances are conducted in a safe, standardised and secure manner. 

In 2022, the INCB reported Lebanon had notified the Secretary General to inform them Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol is a prohibited substance in Lebanon, and it cannot be imported into the country. 

However, it does state that specialist licences can be granted as an exemption to this rule on occasion, in accordance with Article 13 of the 1971 Convention. In the 33rd edition, Lebanon is the only country featured that strictly prohibits Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol.



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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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