Flying the pot-friendly skies just got a little easier, now that it's been confirmed that Health Canada-licensed medicinal cannabis consumers are able to legally consume marijuana both in the airports while waiting for their flights and while on the plane during the flight.
At the end of May 2011, as a license-holder, I took it upon myself to clear up any ambiguities in regards to where and when I'm able to medicate.
Up until this point, we could only speculate as to what exactly the policies were of the corporations and agencies we deal with when we choose air travel. At various times, cardholders have been hassled going through security, as CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) agents haven't been trained to recognize either the MMAR card or paper licenses. The old policy stood that even if the cannabis is legal, if it's found amongst your carry-on items, a report would have to be made, sometimes involving police stationed in the airport — and it could take up to a good twenty minutes to work through the process. Often insensitive agents pull out bags of medicine to display for the entire security area, remarking at the scent and/or asking what strain it is. After the last time this happened to me, the CATSA representative for Calgary International Airport suggested that I file a complaint in order to get the policy changed.
"Believe me, our agents would much rather just see the card and wave you through without the hassle, so if enough complaints are made, the policy can be changed."
Whether or not there were several complaints, my complaint was voiced and heard and so I was contacted by a CATSA representative this week, informing me that the policy is indeed changing and that a memo to that effect will be circulated nationwide within the month. This memo/newsletter will explain to CATSA agents about the new policy of recognizing MMAR cards/paper licenses (pictures of the cards will be provided to them) and explain that filing a report when they come across one isn't necessary. There will be special notes made regarding the professional, courteous conduct required when an agent does come across marijuana; this medicine is to be treated as they would any other prescription medication. Agents don't pull out your Viagra and comment on it, so therefore, the same should be true for your pot.
So now that we know we can bring our meds with us through security, what about consuming them in the airport? That's the bailiwick of each individual airport authority, so I called the two airports I was dealing with, YYC (Calgary) and YYZ (Toronto). I asked both if there was any reason why I wouldn't be able to use my vaporizer once I’m past security and they said, "As long as you can find a plug…"
This left the last piece of the puzzle: could I vape on the plane itself?
The airlines themselves control what happens on their planes, so I called up one of the notoriously friendly WestJet agents and posed the question. I explained what a vaporizer is used for and how it works and after checking with a supervisor, she confirmed that as long as the device was battery-operated (there are no plugs on WestJet planes and you can't burn butane on them, either) and I was using it during the times when I would normally be able to use an electronic device (not during take-off or landing), I was free to medicate as needed.
This news came none too soon, because I arrived for my flight to Toronto for the Treating Yourself Expo absolutely sick as a dog. After intestinal surgery and a stomach bug, I was looking so bad, WestJet wasn't going to let me board the flight. Thanks to my fellow cardholding traveling companions, the Fagins & Rob Blair, I was able to set up my Zephyr and vape myself into feeling and looking good enough to get on the plane, over the course of about an hour-and-a-half.
Once on the plane and in the air, the NO2 vaporizer was packed with the much-needed AK47 and I was able to periodically relieve my nausea throughout the over-three-hour flight, becoming the first person to legally and openly vape on a plane. I suppose high at 30,000+ feet is about as high as anyone's ever gotten on a commercial airline without medibles.
On the flight back to Calgary, I joined the new Mile High Club once again by availing myself of a Launch Box vaporizer provided to me by Dom Cramer, owner of the Toronto Hemp Company (thank you to Tracy Curley for arranging it).
Unfortunately, after contacting Air Canada about their policies surrounding vaporization, I am not as encouraged. Not only did I wait several hours to speak with an agent, Air Canada claimed that, "…it’s not on our list of things you can bring on the plane, so therefore it’s probably not allowed on the plane." This reasoning is, of course, ridiculous. So I encourage all cardholders to contact Air Canada themselves and demand that the same courtesy given to WestJet fliers be given to those traveling on Air Canada. In fact, I encourage everyone to contact any and all domestic airlines and find out their policy about vaping on a plane.
I can honestly say that without the ability to consume my medicine on a fairly continual basis, I would not have been able to make this past trip. I know of many med pot patients who could never before even consider travel that would keep them away from their medicine for such an extended period of time as a cross-country flight, or even a two-hour wait to board the flight. Bravo to the forward-thinkers at WestJet, CATSA and the various airport authorities.
Remo the Urban Grower interviews me about vaping on the plane:
From Cannabis Culture