What You Need to Know Before Importing/Exporting Legal Cannabis Products

Importing and exporting cannabis products is not easy. There have to be a number of economic controls due to the fact that in some countries (or even states) cannabis is much more closely monitored than in others.


The US can have a hard time putting in place the correct customs laws and economic sanctions. There are often criminal sanctions, and there have to be, to ensure that marijuana does not become even more of a criminal enterprise. In many states, buying and even growing cannabis is legal, and there has to be a way for it to get in and out of state. Just like any other industry, transporting products is virtually essential.


What should you know about US export controls and economic sanctions?

Because cannabis is a drug, exporting and importing is administered by the International Drug Convention. This means a lot of regulations.


You need to get approval from the government of both the country of origin and the country where it is being shipped. This can obviously make life very difficult if you are importing or exporting to a country where there are stricter cannabis laws.


In order to export, you need a license to export the product and a specific permit that allows you to send cannabis products elsewhere.


There are often specific laws related to the country where you are doing business. For instance, medical cannabis can be exported under what is called a GMP license.


If you break the laws, you may have to cease trading, or you could face fines or even jail time. If you are trying to run a legitimate cannabis business, you must make sure that you have strict protocols.


Importing and exporting is easier if you are trading with countries open to the production of cannabis such as Switzerland, Mexico and Canada. In Europe, there are many countries that allow cannabis imports, especially for medical reasons. It’s important that you trade in a legitimate way and speak to relevant customs organizations in the destination country as well as your own.

What should you know about US customs laws?

It is much easier to ship products that are derived from hemp, or the seeds of cannabis, than actual cannabis products. However, there is an industry around this, with many companies importing from Canada.


It can be daunting importing cannabis into the US, but there is no reason that it should be illegal. US custom laws state that the products must comply with other US custom laws. 


For example, anything you’re importing must be “classified” in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”). The customs value and duties must be paid.


There are different types of products derived from cannabis. For instance, CBD that comes from marijuana vs hemp may be viewed differently under customs. There are reports that some of these have been seized in the USA.


Crossing state lines may also be a challenge. Some hemp products have to be lower than 0.3% in order to cross the borders in the USA. CBD products can sometimes be seized.


Imports to the U.S. are needed because the US government doesn’t have many federally-approved places marijuana can be grown.


There’s no denying that the rules can be complex, and vary depending on where you are based in the US as well as where the cannabis is being shipped to or from. Luckily, it isn’t too difficult to get advice.

How should you ensure compliance?

Because the trade laws are enforced in a strong way, you need to ensure that you comply. There is bound to be scrutiny at the borders, so you need to make sure you get the right permissions beforehand. 


Many of the big players in the world of importing and exporting cannabis have specific permissions from the government. On top of that, having a good system in place for keeping records, and fully reading up on export controls and customs laws is required. Legal advice is often a good idea to ensure that you are importing or exporting legally, whether you are importing marijuana-derived products or hemp products.


Unfortunately, there is still quite a lot of suspicion. Record-keeping means that you can prove the permissions you have obtained and the fact that you have done things “by the book”.

Companies that legally supports the import-export of cannabis

The fact that cannabis has become so much more widely accepted in the USA and in Canada means the industry is growing. Companies such as Tilray and Canopy Growth are trading between these countries.


Whether restrictions will continue to be as strict in the future remains to be seen, but it is expected that more countries and states will take a positive approach to marijuana due to the fact that those who have legalized have seen a number of benefits already.



Cannabis products can be one of the most difficult to import and export. The fact is that these products are subject to a lot of checks and restrictions, and the variation of legality from one place to another makes it a real challenge when it comes to permissions and record-keeping. However, huge companies like Tilray show that it can be done, and that this is a big growth industry to keep an eye out for.


Author’s Bio

Rebecca Akers is an enthusiastic and creative writer at THC Design. Her main goal is to spread information about growing cannabis and its health benefits.