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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
However, as more states changed their laws, some of those jobs have moved to places like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California, thus sending Mexican cartel imports tumbling. The latest data shows that while agents hit a seizures pinnacle in 2009, getting their hands on around 4 million pounds of cannabis, they only confiscated about 1.5 million pounds last year. Mail-ordering marijuana would be another way for consumers to expand a budding industry that helps farmers and keeps decent jobs in America.
Leafly contacted the Postal Service in the hope of getting more information on their policies regarding illicit substances, in particular cannabis, being transported in the mail. The USPS promptly responded while also providing some useful data:
This is not necessarily the case with the USPS, because as government employees, they are the federal government and therefore require a warrant to access your package. However, although postal inspectors do have to obtain a warrant to search a suspicious package, suspicion alone is enough to get parcels singled out and tracked. USPS actively encourages workers and the public to get involved in the identification of packages containing drugs by offering $50,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and indictment of a drug trafficker.
In the anarchy of the legalization movement, some cannabis users dismissed the run-of-the-mill driving delivery system and instead have taken to mailing their product. In an effort to assess the scale of the trafficking taking place within the USPS, we tried to get our hands on as much relevant data as possible. We were semi-successful in this undertaking, only managing to get information covering the period 2012 to 2015. Consequently, you’ll have to excuse the somewhat empty looking graph below. It’s as patchy as a 13-year-old’s facial hair, but it’s all we got right now since we hadn’t the time to submit a Freedom of Information request.
Postal inspectors are federal agents, mandated to safeguard the nation’s mail, including the people who move it and the customers who use it. On average, 1,000 suspects are arrested by postal inspectors each year for trafficking drugs and laundering drug money via the U.S mail. In addition to seizing cash obtained through criminal activity, postal inspectors have used federal forfeiture laws to seize houses, vehicles, boats, artwork, and other high-value items purchased with drug money.
Even though legal cannabis seems to be accomplishing something that the drug war never could, a huge proportion of it still comes from Mexico. It’s grown, packaged, and shipped from south of the border, which has created many jobs.
“The postal service—the mails are—being used to facilitate drug dealing … It is shocking to see the amount of drugs that get pumped into communities all around this country through our mail system, and we have to deal with that.”
In terms of alternative carriers within the U.S., there are a number of private couriers. The big three outside of USPS are FedEx, UPS, and DHL. A question for the discerning cannabis shipper might be “Which service should I choose and are any of these a better, safer option than USPS?” Surely these private companies offer the paying customers greater protection against government interference and warrantless searches?
The trend seems to have been bucked, however, as the levels of marijuana detected in the postal system declined in 2014. This just happened to coincide with the country’s first licensed recreational marijuana stores opening in Washington and Colorado. The number of marijuana parcels seized by inspectors fell more than 12 percent in 2014, with a coinciding decrease in the total weight of captured cannabis. This trend appears to have continued throughout 2015, with a further drop in the total amount of marijuana seized in parcels to 34,305 lbs; an almost 13 percent fall.
Thinking about trying to mail weed through the USPS? Learn about the laws, risks and penalties associated with mailing marijuana.