Later this month, we’re coming up on exactly one year since the first coronavirus case in the United States was confirmed in Washington state (Jan. 21, 2020). And during that year, we’ve seen cases rise and fall and rise and fall and rise again with a steady increase since October as chilly weather sent people indoors.
In Washington, winter already can be a challenging time, with dark days filled with snow and ice, or at least constant rain, depending on your location. This winter, however, has been more difficult than most with COVID-19 halting or altering usual seasonal fun.
As winter drags on, you may long for a change of scenery. After months of reading and streaming and puzzles and virtual happy hours, we’re all getting a little antsy.
You could always experiment with making edibles, start a pipe and glass collection, or study up on cannabis farming. But if your heart is set on escape (and legal guidelines allow), try these tips for traveling in the time of COVID.
Before you go anywhere, get your flu shot. Flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, so if you become ill with the flu, it could necessitate a trip to the doctor or even the hospital, which puts you at additional risk. It is also possible to get both infections, either simultaneously or concurrently.
Practice basic self-care such as getting enough sleep and eating healthy. Exercise, even if it’s cold, wear appropriate clothing, and go outside as often as possible. There is no shortage of research extolling the benefits of outdoor time.
Go on an adventure in your own backyard
Stay in your pod, bring plenty of water, edibles, and clothing layers – and head outdoors! Not only will you get great exercise and cleanse your lungs, you’ll feel relatively safe away from crowds. We’ve found some area trails that are busy, but masking and distancing was not an issue, and many times we were the only ones on the trail.
Do your homework by checking out conditions and reading online reviews from recent dates about crowd and use. Remember, the weekends and sunny days are always busier. Some useful regional websites are www.AllTrails.com and www.WTA.org.
Stock up on your stash
Cannabis shops are somewhat sparse depending on how far out you go, so you’ll want to stock up before you venture out. Also, be aware that cannabis cannot be consumed on federal land. This includes federal parks and forests, military property, and many ski resorts that border public lands. Either wait unitl you’re sure you’re on safe ground or stick to edibles or vaping rather than smokable flower.
Heading out of state
If you decide you must travel, it can be done safely. I’ve had to travel numerous times in the last six months, both by plane and car, to several states, and have remained healthy and safe. Here are my recommendations:
• Always wear a mask. If you can, use disposable masks that you can remove and toss regularly after being around people, especially on a flight. If you use a reusable mask, wash it daily in hot water and soap, and air dry. The outside of the mask is where most contamination occurs, so if you touch your mask, wash your hands with hot soap and water.
• Keep your distance. Regardless of where you are, stay 6-10 feet away from others. If they get too close, step away, or say something. While boarding a plane recently someone was standing inches from me, so I turned around and said, “Keep your 6-foot distance please.” Immediately they realized their mistake and backed up. Don’t be shy: You are protecting yourself and others.
• Carry a small hand sanitizer bottle. Spray it on your hands, things you’ll be touching, or the outside of the mask. I purchased some great CBD sanitizer recently, which not only smells great, but keeps my skin moisturized.
• Follow local guidance. Different cities, counties and states have different rules, so make sure your travel does not conflict with any restrictions. In Washington, visitors and returning residents are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days after non-essential travel to other states or counties.
Venturing out with cannabis
The use of cannabis has never been more desirable. It’s relaxing, invigorating, helps anxiety, and researchers have conducted numerous studies suggesting that cannabis extracts may decrease levels of the host cell receptor that the novel coronavirus uses to gain viral entry to target tissues. But what about travelling with cannabis?
In the U.S., the federal government still classifies marijuana, even medical marijuana, as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means anyone transporting it across state lines is committing a federal crime and can be charged with drug trafficking. However, TSA’s screening procedures, governed by federal law, are focused on security, and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. If they discover your personal stash, they might just throw it away or ignore it.
But that’s a still taking a big risk. If a TSA officer discovers an item they feel violates the law during the security screening procedure, they may bring in local law enforcement to determine whether to initiate a criminal investigation based on the laws of that state.
It’s not a bad idea to look up your airline’s rules and regulations too. Many carriers, including Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have created policies that ban medical marijuana from their aircraft, even if you have a state medical card. You should also check the laws of the states you are traveling to or through. Even if you have a medical marijuana card, you can be arrested and charged for possession in states where medical marijuana is not legal.
A vape pen is a must for the traveling canna-consumer, especially if you’re headed to a destination with a harsh penalty for smoking. Given the prevalence of e-cigs and the minimal smell of vaping oil, a vape pen is about as incognito as it gets. But remember that vaping and charging your battery on an airplane is prohibited and extremely dangerous.
Make sure your vape pen is in your carry-on and not your check-in luggage. When a carry-on bag is checked, all electronic cigarette and vaping devices, along with any spare lithium batteries, must be removed and should be taken with you in the aircraft cabin. Some airline carriers require that vape batteries be stored in a separate battery case.
Amtrak’s policy is equally strict. The use or transportation of marijuana in any form for any purpose is prohibited, even in states or countries where recreational use is legal or permitted medically. Greyhound Lines bans alcohol and drugs anywhere on the bus (including checked baggage).
If you choose to drive with marijuana, be discreet and aware of local and interstate laws. Many marijuana arrests begin as traffic stops. Even a cool travel-sized smoking kit without anything to smoke could still be seen as illegal paraphernalia if you encounter law enforcement in a less cannabis-friendly state. Or a couple of joints could still attract negative attention, even jail time, in certain states.
What about CBD? Travelers can carry CBD products that contain less than 0.3 percent THC, and can bring products that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration in their checked or carry-on luggage.
Regardless of whether you decide to hunker down, have outdoor adventures, or pack your bags and try the skies – stay safe and stay calm.
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