Marijuana Policies for Employees Who Travel for Work

On October 25, 2022, professional basketball player Brittney Griner lost her bid in a Russian appeals court to overturn a nine-year sentence for trying to smuggle illegal drugs into Russia. Griner, a National Women’s Basketball Association star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was reportedly arrested at a Russian airport in February 2022 while trying to enter the country to play professional basketball with a vaporizer cartridge containing less than one gram of hashish oil. , a product derived from marijuana. Griner is said to have a prescription for medical marijuana in Arizona, but marijuana, including medical marijuana, is still illegal in Russia.

The US State Department has classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” a designation that means the United States will act more aggressively to secure her release.

Griner’s case could be special given the political situation between the countries involved. At the same time, it could serve as a reminder to employers of the risks to employees traveling to work with marijuana due to the varying legal status of the drug from country to country and even state to state within the United States. .

Different Legal Status of Marijuana

Currently, recreational marijuana, or cannabis, is legal in 21 US states plus the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is legal in many more. The drug is illegal to import, manufacture, distribute, and possess under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance – a designation for drugs considered to have a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use .

Across the globe, there are similar differences in the status of marijuana. Although most countries continue to prohibit marijuana, some have limited enforcement, and some countries, such as Canada, have legalized recreational use on a national level. Many others, especially those in Europe and South America, have legalized medical marijuana. On the other hand, some countries have strict drug laws and impose harsh penalties for possession of marijuana.

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also treats marijuana as a prohibited substance for athletes competing in international sports as marijuana and cannabinoids are on the prohibited list under the World Anti-Doping Code, which seeks to harmonize international anti-doping efforts worldwide. world. However, in 2019, WADA sold cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical derived from marijuana that is different from the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Immigration Consequences for Non-US Citizens

Although the recreational or medical use of marijuana is legal in many states, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law. Thus, marijuana-related activity, such as legal employment in the cannabis industry, possession, sale, purchase, or formal admission of marijuana use to non-citizens, may result in immigration consequences, even if the activity in a state where marijuana is legal. . Additionally, admitting marijuana-related behavior alone can result in a failure to meet the good moral character required to attain US citizenship through naturalization. Non-US citizens include lawful permanent residents (also referred to as “green card holders”), visitors, students, work visa holders, and dependents of work visa holders.

Flying in the United States

When flying in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) generally allows personal transportation of medical marijuana in certain circumstances. The TSA warns that marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products, including some CBD oil, are still illegal under federal law. The 2018 federal farm bill made an exception “for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA.”

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The TSA says it does not specifically search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substances are found during screening, the agency will “refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.” Despite the farm bill, there have been reports of travelers in recent years being arrested and detained in several US states where marijuana is illegal after marijuana or marijuana products were found in their luggage.

International Travelers

Traveling internationally can carry additional risks. According to US law, it is illegal to import any amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia into the United States. In April 2021, US Customs and Border Protection issued a public reminder that those caught with marijuana entering the United States face various consequences, including federal civil penalties of up to $1,000.

It is also illegal to transport marijuana across many international borders, even if marijuana is legal in the destination country. For example, the Canadian government, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, warns travelers that it is illegal to carry marijuana or cannabis products, including edibles, cannabis extracts and topical ointments, across the border into Canada, regardless how much do travelers have. carry or are authorized to use medical marijuana in any form.

In addition, many countries have not only not followed the legal trend, but impose severe penalties for violations. Singapore, for example, a popular destination for many US multinationals, punishes the possession or consumption of cannabis with up to ten years in prison or $20,000 or both. And those who traffic, import or export cannabis illegally could face the death penalty.

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The US State Department warns travelers that they are subject to the local laws and regulations of the country they are visiting and that those laws and potential penalties may differ from those in the United States. Travelers who are arrested or detained abroad may need to contact the US Embassy in that country, which, depending on the country, may provide various services, such as providing a list of local attorneys who may represent the traveler.

Key Street Shops

Despite the increased legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, the drug remains illegal under US federal law, in many states, and in most countries around the globe. Employers with employees who regularly travel for work, particularly multinational employers with employees who must travel internationally frequently, may wish to consider employment policies to prohibit these drugs during travel. They may also want to consider warnings to employees about the risks of traveling with marijuana products even if employees are licensed users of medical marijuana.

In addition, employers may wish to assess wider potential risks before requesting or requiring employees to travel to certain countries that are currently in conflict or have strained relations with the States United.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 335


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