Posted by Meital Manzuri, Esq. | Jan 20, 2017 | 7 Comments
As the California legal marijuana marketplace grows, both sellers and consumers are increasingly wondering if it is possible to legally mail marijuana within the United States. The answer is a simple and resounding no. Importantly, this holds true regardless of whether the shipment origin or destination have laws legalizing marijuana. Let’s understand why.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is a Schedule I drug. Schedule 1 controlled substances are those which, in the opinion of the United States government have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.
And when it comes to our country’s mail delivery services, federal law trumps all other laws of the land. As a result, mailing marijuana is illegal across all modes of mail delivery. This includes private carriers such as FedEx and UPS as well as the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Marijuana and the United States Postal Service
Because the USPS is a federal government agency, it must strictly obey federal guidelines. Using the United States Postal Service to mail weed — even within the territorial limits of California (a pot-legal state) — is a felony under 18 U.S. Code 1716.
However, as U.S. postal workers are federal government employees, they need a warrant based on probable cause in order to search a package for drugs. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, “first class letters and parcels are protected against search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and as such, cannot be opened without a search warrant.”
Since the USPS offers some protection against search and seizure, it can understandably seem to be the safest way to ship marijuana. However, if a package seems suspicious, the USPS can get a search warrant. While this might seem like an acceptable risk, the punishment for mailing drugs through the U.S. mail can include up to a year in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Using UPS or FedEx to Ship Marijuana
Using Third-Party Carriers
Unlike the USPS, private third-party carriers – such as UPS, FedEx and DHL – are not federal agencies. As such, they do not even have to obtain a warrant to search a suspicious package.
Indeed, the Supreme Court has ruled that giving your package to a third-party “removes any reasonable expectation of privacy.” This means that private carriers have the right to open and inspect any package at their own discretion.
Furthermore, large private carriers have affirmed over and over again their willingness to cooperate with federal law enforcement in cracking down on illegal drug trafficking via mail.
For example, in 2014 FedEx was indicted for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances by transporting illegal painkillers and other prescription drugs. And in 2013, UPS paid $40 million to settle a federal probe into shipping drugs from illegal online pharmacies. Though neither of these cases involved cannabis, it shows how big the incentive is for private carriers such as UPS and FedEx to monitor packages for illegal drugs.
Risks of Shipping Weed by Mail
There risks of mailing marijuana are significant. For one thing, you can be charged under either federal law or the law of the state in which the cannabis shipment originated or the state to which it was delivered. Furthermore, charges will be compounded for interstate trafficking as well as based on the quantity of the marijuana. And under federal guidelines, mailing as little as 50 grams or less of marijuana can land in the federal penitentiary for up to five years.
Worsening matters, USPS and private carriers’ employees are offered a “reward” of up to $50,000 for information leading to convictions of persons mailing illegal substances. Even if you are only the recipient of the package, if you knowingly receive marijuana in the mail, your participation in the shipment is enough for you to be charged with conspiracy to distribute an illegal substance.
In sum, postal services are not drug mules. With the rise in the number of states legalizing marijuana, the DEA is now more than ever keeping a close eye on the shipment of packages across the country.
Yes — it is possible to transport your marijuana via mail. It happens every day and people get away with it. But remember, you’re playing the odds. The best advice we can give our clients is not to use the mail to ship your pot. At the very least, mail no more than 28 grams – California’s limit on recreational marijuana possession – and only within the borders of California.
Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.
Legally-Blunt Posted by Meital Manzuri, Esq. | Jan 20, 2017 | 7 Comments As the California legal marijuana marketplace grows, both sellers and consumers are increasingly wondering if it is
Why You Should Never Send Weed in the Mail
Monday September 17, 2018
T here are few government agencies with their own memorable children’s song, but sing the first few notes to, “here’s the mail, it never fails…” and any member of a certain generation of American youth is likely to give the full song in response. The American affinity for the US postal service is so extensive it even spawned multiple major motion pictures. However, the nation’s growing acceptance for legal cannabis is at odds with our affinity for shipping things – making the mail system off limits for marijuana businesses or consumers.
Until extensive laws change, let us be really clear, it is always a bad idea to send cannabis through the mail.
If that’s not enough to convince you that mailing weed is a bad idea, we’ll break it down even further to specifically highlight the main reasons why sending cannabis via the mail is something no cannabis consumer should ever consider.
Cannabis is still federally illegal and considered a schedule 1 drug, meaning that sending it through the mail amounts to trafficking. According to the DEA’s 2017 ominously titled “Drugs of Abuse” report, the most minimal of offenses possible (anything under 50kg of product, or 1-49 plants) is punishable by up to five years jail time and a fine of $250,000.
If you get arrested with friends, they can charge up to $1 million to the group. Second offenses will double that, and it only gets worse for larger amounts. The US postal service is also a federal agency, meaning aside from cannabis laws, you can also be charged with misuse of mail and other mail-tampering related offenses. Even if the state you reside in is generally cool with it and decides to not prosecute, wherever it is arriving might be a different story, and each place can decide to prosecute however it pleases. Sending cannabis through the mail is definitively illegal in any circumstance, unless you are acting on behalf of a federal agency with the approved paperwork, which lets be honest, if you’re reading this article, that’s probably not the case.
Sender and Receiver are Both Equally at Fault
Maybe you’re thinking, “not my address, not my problem, it’s on whomever receives it.” This is flat out false. Both sides can be charged. People tend not to realize how well tracked the mail is, either by USPS or private companies like UPS or FedEx, and using things like fake names or addresses is actually a red flag to federal agencies, and is more likely to get your shipment flagged. All of the loopholes and workarounds that you’ll hear from friends are usually just wishful thinking.
Say Goodbye to a Future in Cannabis
If you work in the cannabis industry, or have any aspirations of getting into it, that would become impossible after a charge. Even if someone was okay with risking a fine or jail time, those in the cannabis industry may also be risking their livelihood.
In many legalized states, workers have to be licensed in order to be allowed to work in the marijuana industry, and the determination of that licensing is largely based on past criminal record, especially in relation to cannabis. Most consider having a clean criminal record the only requirement for holding a badge, so sending a package means effectively risking that possibility.
Risk Losing Your Product
It’s probably the least of one’s concerns, but it’s still a huge bummer. Though prices are constantly falling, cannabis still costs money. Even if nothing legal happens, the product is likely to be confiscated. Every year, the DEA publishes data on the amount of seized cannabis. In 2017, the record was broken for cannabis seized leaving Colorado through the mail, and it became so problematic in Oregon that its US Attorney issued an editorial about how overproduction was driving the black market. He stated, “In 2017 alone, postal agents in Oregon seized 2,644 pounds of marijuana in outbound parcels. ”
Without question, a lot of pot isn’t winding up at its destination, and your package is likely to be part of it. After it doesn’t arrive, you’ll get to play the fun waiting game of wondering if you’re going to be charged for it or not. Which, doesn’t always happen the way you’d expect…
The Government Probably Knows You Did It
So, maybe someone you know got a package of marijuana in the mail. Bravo, all is well. Clearly no one is watching, because it worked, right? Nope. Often, it’s not advantageous for the federal government to go through the process of prosecuting someone who has broken the law, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know about it, and won’t keep a record.
If it ever becomes advantageous to use that information at a later time, they can. Statutes of limitations will vary from state to state, but are generally longer for drug trafficking than drug possession. The current limit in California is five years from the date of the incident, just to give you an idea. One postal agent who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity put it simply, “We know. We always know. It’s either not worth the time, or we’re waiting for the right time.” Usually, after first being detected, they start to watch your activity and wait to see if there’s a larger charge to prosecute you for while you continue to send packages under a false sense of security, continuing to incriminate yourself.
The Consequences Outweigh the Risks
If you’re an upstanding citizen who would like to continue living freely in America, then it’s obvious you should never mail cannabis – no matter how lucrative it may be or how desperately someone may be asking you. Next time your friend begs you to just send out a few grams or a couple edibles, tell them to consider putting the money towards a plane ticket so they can come visit your wonderful legalized state and enjoy marijuana safely and legally.
Do you have anything to add to why mailing cannabis is a bad idea? Share your thoughts below!
Mailing cannabis is a serious offense and can leave you with some pretty hefty consequences if you're caught. Learn more about why mailing marijuana is never a good idea and some of the steep ramifications that you could face if caught.