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
The Do’s, Don’ts And Everything Else You Should Know About Shipping Weed Through The Mail
There was once a time when marijuana smuggling consisted of a few college pals jumping into a rental car and heading south of the border to meet up with a shady character with a glass eye and a wooden leg. They might toss a bag of cash in the passenger side window of his old, rusty truck, being careful not to hit the rooster in the shotgun seat, and then travel for miles to a separate location where yet another cutthroat bendeco would hand them several bricks of hierba to transport back into the United States. The young smugglers would then have to make it across the border without getting pinched by border security or any other cowboy law enforcer looking to make good on his ass-kicking quota by terrorizing a bunch of hippies.
But smuggling marijuana is easier these days. Now that cannabis is sold legally in some part of the United States, most smugglers are simply getting their smoke from one location to another by shipping it through the United States Postal Service. Sure, this practice goes against the grain of federal law, as any amount of marijuana sent through the mail is considered drug trafficking. But most of those who use this method of transport seem to be getting away it scot-free. Some statistics show that somewhere around 90 percent of the weed shipped through the mail goes undetected.
Yet for the unlucky 10 percent who do get caught, the penalties can be quite severe. Earlier this month, a Colorado man was sentenced to five years in federal prison for shipping $3 million worth of marijuana through the mail. James Mack, 38, reportedly shipped up to six 5-gallon buckets of marijuana to his partner in Kansas every week for about a year. But as with anything in life, too much of a good thing can eventually go bad. In addition to his prison sentence, Mack was also forced to forfeit the $1.5 million he profited from his illicit pot business. The message from the federal government was clear: We are not messing around with people who use the mail to smuggle weed.
It is important to point out that shipping larger quantities of marijuana (or another other Schedule I controlled substance) through the mail, like Mr. Mack, is likely going to result in prison time and high fines. But it depends on the amount of pot. Shipping over 28 grams of pot is a bad idea. Over 50 grams is even worse. So, if a person must ship weed through USPS, it is best not to go full-blown Pablo Escobar. Keeping it small will lessen the chances of getting pinched.
But no matter the size of the pot shipment, legal troubles are definitely on the horizon for anyone busted using mail service to ship marijuana. That’s a guarantee.
Even if a person lives in a legal marijuana state, it is still against the law to send marijuana through the mail. But it is less likely they will be caught. Someone in Denver isn’t likely going to trigger a red flag by sending a package to a friend in Aspen. But parcels coming out Colorado (or any other legal state) destined across state lines can attract unwanted attention. Especially, if the packaging is sloppy and done up with a fake or no return address. Plain brown paper parcels also stand an increased chance of getting pulled of for inspection.
Sending edible marijuana can be a safer bet. This is because odor is the biggest give away. Raw flower is pungent and it permeates from the packaging the longer it sits, even when it has been vacuum sealed, so overnight or next day shipping is a always a smarter move. Keeping a box in the postal system for days only increases the chances of a postal worker or drug dog alerting federal officials to illegal contraband.
Is it illegal to ship weed? Here are all the do's and don't when it comes to sending weed to people.