While cannabis oil has dramatically improved fibromyalgia patient Julia Davenport’s quality of life, it has brought with it new challenges when it comes to travel, as she explains here.
Chronic pain has a nasty habit of getting in the way of doing the things you love.
My big passion which I share with my husband, and I guess our one extravagance, is jetting off to far flung places.
Over the years, however, fibromyalgia, arthritis and aching joints have conspired to make travelling evermore arduous.
Now in my 70s with various replacement parts, difficult terrain is one of the biggest barriers to exploring new places.
Certainly, my husband’s bucket list destination, the Galapagos Islands, is on my no-fly list. I would have adored to go there at some point, but navigating those volcanic rocks, even with my walking stick, would be a nightmare.
Familiar holiday spots closer to home are also becoming increasingly inaccessible. Every year our extended family visits the same Northumberland cottage, which is at the bottom of a steep bank.
In years gone by, I’d be fine to walk down to it through the working farm in which it stands. Now, because my back and shoulders have deteriorated, I have to drive right to the door.
Finding ways to compensate for the things you can no longer do is a constant theme with chronic pain conditions.
Aside from mobility challenges, another restriction on travel with rheumatological conditions can be the weather, and humidity can play havoc with chronic pain. I’d love to go to Central America, for example, but I just couldn’t tolerate the heat and humidity.
Having said that, although hot dry weather is far better than the cold British winter, the difference is not enough to drag me away from my family at Christmas time.
For all my gripes about life on the road, though, traveling remains my great joy, and discovering medical cannabis and CBD has definitely helped; although it’s not all plain sailing.
Travelling with medical cannabis
In November I’m returning to South Africa, a place I’ve visited a few times and which has a special place in my heart.
On previous visits, because we’ve flown via Dubai, I’ve not taken medical cannabis or CBD with me.
There is no way I’d risk taking cannabis with me to the UAE, where people have apparently been arrested and put in jail for having codeine, never mind anything else, despite having a prescription for it.
They have a ridiculously long list of substances that they deem addictive which you can’t have. There are things you can apply for permission to take, but I just wouldn’t trust that I wasn’t going to get arrested.
When we’ve flown long-haul through Dubai in the past, I would tend to take enough medication just for the journey. I have even flushed pain medication down the toilet on a connecting flight to Dubai just to make sure I’m not in possession on arrival.
I’ve then managed to pick up cannabis products quite easily in certain final destinations.
In South Africa there was a shop similar to a Holland and Barrett which sold CBD products legally. They were able to match the equivalent of what I was already taking to their products.
In Japan, it was also relatively easy to buy CBD over the counter, even with the language barrier.
In the past, the ease at which you can buy CBD has definitely influenced my travel choices. There are lots of countries that I’d give a wide berth to because of their approach to medication, which is often underpinned by false views on addiction.
At the same time, with so many countries opening up to CBD, travelling is getting easier and the main challenge is the routing of flights through the Gulf.
Thankfully on my next trip to South Africa we are travelling direct to Cape Town directly so I can rest easy that I won’t end up behind bars.
Guidance for travelling with medical cannabis
Some countries allow medicinal cannabis and some even recreational cannabis. Some allow CBD but others do not.
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 with medical cannabis.
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.
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.
You can get an idea of the country’s stance on cannabis initially by searching for “legality of cannabis” on Wikipedia – but always check with the embassy as well.