We asked an expert what patients should know before jetting off this summer.
There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to travelling abroad with a medical cannabis prescription – we asked an expert what patients should know before jetting off this summer.
Now that Covid restrictions have eased, many of us are looking forward to being able to travel abroad again.
This summer you might have made plans for a long-awaited week in the sun, or have been looking forward to finally visiting family and friends overseas – but can you take your prescription with you?
It’s a question many patients will be facing over the next months and something which naturally causes a lot of fear and uncertainty.
After all, it’s a dilemma no one wants to be faced with – do you risk going weeks without your medicine or potentially experiencing issues with law enforcement overseas?
The fact is there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the country you are wishing to travel to – and at this stage, it’s up to you to do your research in advance.
Where is medical cannabis legal?
The legality of cannabis varies greatly from country to country. Some allow medicinal cannabis and some even recreational cannabis. Some allow CBD but others do not.
It might surprise you that Wikipedia can be a good place to start. It should have a comprehensive list of all countries which have legalised whole-plant cannabis for medical use.
These include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Lebanon, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
However, guidance from the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society recommends that patients always contact the embassy to check the legal situation in the country they are visiting before travelling anywhere with medical cannabis.
What the experts say
It’s also not enough to assume that you will be allowed into the country if medical cannabis is legal there – or vice-versa.
We spoke to Abby Hughes, chair of patient advocacy organisation, PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access), who shared her advice for any patients wishing to travel abroad with their prescription:
“As with any medication, guidance around travelling abroad with a prescription varies greatly depending on the country a person wishes to enter. There may be specific rules on travelling with controlled drugs.
“Unfortunately some countries make no distinction between recreational and medicinal use of cannabis, with some places issuing severely harsh penalties if a person is found in possession, even with a prescription.
“For up-to-date information, it is recommended that contact is made with the relevant country’s embassy* to clarify the rules before travelling. Some countries require a letter of proof from a clinician, some require a request to be submitted to the embassy requesting to travel, some restrict the amount of medication you are able to travel with, i.e. up to 30 days supply. It is suggested that any guidance is sought and confirmed in writing.
“Where a country requires a letter of proof to be shown at the border, this should be issued from the prescribing clinician.
The letter should generally include:
– traveller’s name and date of birth
– countries being entered and length of stay
– a list of medicine, including how much is being transported, doses and strength
– signature of the prescribing clinician.
“Once confirmed that it is permitted to enter a country with prescribed cannabis, it is advised that travellers keep medication on their person, stored in its original packaging along with a copy of their issued prescription and relevant corresponding paperwork.
“It may be wise to keep an electronic copy of any paperwork both on a phone and via email, and to have the prescribing clinicians phone number and other contact information handy.
“If there is any uncertainty, or if a person travels with medication without checking the legalities and finds themselves in trouble, advise and support can be sought from Release.”
Abby Hughes is an experienced NHS operations lead and has been a committed volunteer in the medicinal cannabis sector for over seven years. She is chair and outreach director of patient advocacy group PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access), as well as a co-founder of the Plant Ed Collective and patient access consultant for Project Twenty21.
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