Cannabis and transportation: The challenges of a growing industry

Published May 19, 2023 01:00 p.m. ET
Unsplash / Etienne Girardet 

As more countries and states all around the world legalize cannabis, it’s creating a host of unique challenges and opportunities for those who work in the transportation industry. Demand is on the rise, and the need for safe, efficient, reliable, and appropriate shipping of cannabis and many associated products is becoming a necessity that’s far more complex and difficult to navigate than ever before.

Here, we’ll talk about some of the biggest struggles of transporting cannabis, including the most important various factors that should be considered along the way.

Legal and regulatory framework

Like most cannabis-related companies, the biggest challenge faced by those responsible for transporting these products is the extensive and complicated regulatory framework that limits all players in the industry. Shipping cannabis, particularly in the United States isn’t easy, as the process is restricted by different laws at all levels of government from federal, to state and local regulations, all of which may overlap or conflict.

These rules cover many situations and steps, like packaging, labels, licensing, and tracking cannabis goods. The companies that transport these products must comply with all of them, to ensure they aren’t slapped with fines or other legal penalties, while also providing a secure, reliable service that is moving cannabis from one location to wherever it needs to be.


Another important thing to consider is security as protection is key in the successful transport of cannabis, which is a very valuable product, that may be actively sought out and targeted by thieves. This is why companies that ship these goods are required to have strong security systems and processes in place, including but not limited to surveillance, trained personnel, GPS tracking, and anything else that may work to safeguard and monitor this precious cargo while it’s in transit.

Transportation methods

How a cannabis company should ship its products depends on many factors, like the type of goods, and the distance between pickup and destination. With several methods to choose from including air, sea, and ground transportation, it’s crucial to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each one. It’s also important to look at the unique needs of the sender in order to determine which shipping option is most likely to meet all required and anticipated expectations.

Ground transportation

This is the safest most common shipping method utilized by cannabis companies for transporting products both short and great distances. Generally, transportation on the ground involves a truck, van, or car to move the item from one pickup location to a destination, and though at times weather and other situations may slightly delay the arrival of packages, the risk of losing whole shipments is relatively low, and it’s affordable, making it the ideal option for the majority of cannabis businesses.


Air transportation

Transporting cannabis products by air is great for long-distance deliveries, as well as shipments that must cross large bodies of water to arrive at their destination. It’s also fast and efficient, but far more cost prohibitive than the alternatives, and it’s subject to much stricter regulations, so most businesses are unlikely to choose air transportation as a primary solution for moving cannabis-containing shipments.

Sea transportation

The third and final transportation method may be used even less frequently than the others, although it may be a good option for those needing to move large volumes of cannabis products over great distances or across large bodies of water. For international deliveries, boats can be a cost-effective way to get the job done, but much like the air, regulatory requirements are strict here, and customers may not always be pleased with how long deliveries take to arrive since it’s slower than the alternatives.

Packaging and labeling

Finding the right method to transport cannabis products is only part of the equation. Another crucial aspect to consider is how they will be packaged and labeled to both appeal to customers and stay compliant with requirements in all related districts. This could mean using labels with certain information such as dosing, or potency, or opting for child-proof packages.

In conclusion

Transporting cannabis is a complicated process and an ever-evolving landscape, so it’s essential to navigate every step of the process with care and consideration. Finding a safe, reliable, secure, and compliant shipping company is of the utmost importance. Even if it’s not required just yet, as this industry expands, it will soon become a necessary part of every cannabis company's business plan.

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