What Happens If You’re Caught with Edibles

With the ever-changing regulations surrounding cannabis use, it can be quite a challenge to stay informed. Laws differ from state to state and country to country, and they are bound to change again in the future.

Carrying edibles is legal throughout Canada, including on flights. However, the legality of edible cannabis varies across different regions. Currently, 34 jurisdictions in the United States have legalized medical cannabis, while 12 have legalized recreational use for adults (1). It is crucial to understand the distinction between medical and recreational cannabis, as well as the differences between CBD and THC. The specific types of cannabis permitted can vary significantly from one area to another.

What are Edibles?

Edibles are products or supplements that contain cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds such as CBD or THC. Cannabis gummies are a popular form of edible cannabis, but other options include baked goods (like brownies or cookies), chocolates, candies, drinks, and supplements. The cannabis plant contains over 400 different compounds, but CBD and THC are commonly extracted and added to edibles. The amount of CBD and THC in cannabis gummies can be adjusted according to personal preferences, whether you prefer CBD-only, THC-only, or varying ratios of both.

Before attempting to make your own cannabis gummies, it is crucial to consider the legality of such products and the potential consequences of being caught with them.

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The Difference Between CBD and THC

To understand what is legal and what is not, it is essential to grasp the distinction between CBD and THC. These two compounds have different effects on the body and may not always be legal.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is known as the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis because it does not produce a “high” (2). CBD has gained popularity due to its various health benefits, including reducing inflammation, alleviating pain, managing convulsions, relieving muscle tension, reducing anxiety and stress, and easing vomiting and nausea.


Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive compound of cannabis that can induce a “high.” Despite this effect, THC has also gained popularity for its beneficial health effects, such as reducing inflammation, relieving pain and muscle tension, alleviating vomiting and nausea, and increasing appetite.

Understanding the difference between CBD and THC is crucial because the legal status of cannabis can be complex (3). In some places, only one compound may be legal, while the other is not. Alternatively, both CBD and THC may be legal, but subject to different regulations. To complicate matters further, different states have varying laws concerning the permitted quantities of CBD and THC (4). It is especially important to be aware of these laws in relation to edibles, as they aim to prevent overdosing.

Beware of broad statements claiming that “cannabis is legal” without specifying which compounds are legal. More often than not, CBD is likely to be legal while THC is not (5). However, exceptions do exist, with some places allowing both CBD and THC. Thus, it is vital to understand what your state or country permits regarding CBD and THC.

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Medical Cannabis vs. Recreational Cannabis

To further complicate matters, you may have come across the terms “medical cannabis” and “recreational cannabis.” But what do these terms mean, and how do they affect the legal landscape?

Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis refers to cannabis prescribed by a doctor for a health-related condition (6). It originates from reputable manufacturers and undergoes strict regulation to ensure quality and safety.

Recreational Cannabis

Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is not prescribed by a doctor, and individuals acquire it themselves (7). Depending on your location, recreational cannabis might be available from specialized stores, grown at home, or obtained through other means. While recreational cannabis is typically used for recreational purposes, some people may self-medicate with it. However, certain areas may not classify self-medication as medical cannabis (8).

Regardless of the purpose, it is crucial to determine whether sourcing your own cannabis is legal.

Which One Is Legal?

You might assume that medical cannabis primarily refers to CBD, as it does not produce psychoactive effects. However, this is not always the case. For instance, prescription medications like dronabinol may contain low levels of THC (10). Nonetheless, just because a product is available by prescription does not guarantee its availability in your area, even if it is legal (11).

Therefore, determining what qualifies as medical or recreational cannabis is not always straightforward. When investigating the legality of edible cannabis products in your area, it is crucial to keep this in mind.

Why Are There Laws Governing Edible Cannabis?

Regulations surrounding edible cannabis primarily aim to address a couple of concerns:

  1. Accidental ingestion: Edible cannabis can be mistaken for non-cannabis food items, leading to accidental consumption, particularly among children (12).
  2. Overdosing: Some individuals may overdose on edible cannabis due to impatience, as edibles take longer to produce effects. This impatience can lead to individuals taking more before the initial dose takes effect (13).
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While the multitude of laws may feel overwhelming, it is essential to remember that they exist to ensure everyone’s safety.

The Consequences of Getting Caught with Edible Cannabis

If edible cannabis is legal in your area, and you comply with all relevant regulations, you should generally face no consequences. As long as you follow the rules and refrain from supplying it to underage individuals, you should be in the clear. However, there may be regulations regarding the sale and distribution of edible cannabis that you must also abide by (14). Packaging requirements, such as childproof containers, may apply in some jurisdictions (15).

If, however, edible cannabis is illegal in your area and you are caught with it, you can expect consequences. Additionally, incorrect packaging of edible cannabis may also result in penalties. For example, being caught with illegal edibles can lead to criminal charges, resulting in potential difficulties in securing employment or traveling to other countries (16). The specific punishments vary between states and countries (17) and can include fines, imprisonment, and mandatory participation in drug rehabilitation programs (18, 19). The severity of the punishment depends on the circumstances and the number of laws broken.


Understanding the laws and regulations surrounding edible cannabis in your area, whether you reside there or plan to travel with it, cannot be stressed enough. Laws differ between states and countries, and the consequences of possessing illegal edibles can vary accordingly.

To address any concerns, it is always wise to verify the current legal status of edible cannabis in your area before consumption. Take into account any differences in laws regarding CBD, THC, medical cannabis, and recreational cannabis.

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