Mailing cannabis from a legal state to a location where the plant is prohibited sounds like a failsafe plan with minimal repercussions. Without needing to be physically present during the painstaking ordeal, confrontation is greatly minimized and all you have to do is mask the smell of the package.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Snail mail is one of the worst ways to transport cannabis; and with that being said, it should be avoided at all costs.
Understanding Federal Guidelines
The US postal sector is closely regulated by the government, regardless if the service provider is private, like UPS and FedEx, or part of a government agency, like the USPS. To discourage individuals from mailing cannabis via the USPS, the federal entity offers an attractive $50,000 reward to workers for information about such activities. Furthermore, since the USPS adheres to federal guidelines, the herb is viewed and treated as a Schedule 1 substance. It doesn’t matter if you’re mailing cannabis from in a state where the plant is legal, because you’re still using the government’s mailing service.
“Federal law trumps state law,” said Antonio Gomez of the US Postal Inspection Service in Chicago.
“Any distribution of marijuana that occurs across state lines absent a federal license is a violation of federal law,”
explained Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.
Private postal companies that are not backed by the government are also unsuitable options, due to strict policies that cross with federal guidelines. For example, a clause in FedEx’s shipping regulations indicate that sending out items “prohibited by federal, state or local law, rule or regulation” is not allowed, which includes cannabis (on a federal level).
Is it Worth the Risk?
Despite huge risks that come with mailing cannabis illegally, people still seem to be very fond of using such services for their herbal needs. In 2014, the USPS seized a whopping 39,301 pounds of cannabis. Interestingly, this figure fell by roughly 5,000 pounds in 2015 – after the first full fiscal year of the implementation of medical cannabis laws in Colorado and Washington. These stats show the effectiveness of legal cannabis in curtailing trends surrounding unregulated cannabis distribution practices.
In some states where the herb is legal, the transportation of cannabis is tolerated under specific licensing regulations. Colorado residents holding a valid license from the Colorado State Licensing Authority and Denver Excise & Licenses are allowed to transport the plant (as well as cannabis derivatives) within the state. The same goes for Washington, under the Marijuana Transportation License, and California, which is monitored by the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
Although only an estimated 10 percent of packages containing cannabis get confiscated by postal authorities each year, it’s still not worth the risk. Federal penalties for first offenders caught shipping the plant are heavy, consisting of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for less than 110 pounds of cannabis.
The bottom line is, mailing or shipping cannabis is unsafe due to the government’s strong presence in the US postal sector. A much safer option would be to invite your friends residing in states where cannabis is prohibited to a cannabis-fueled vacation in a location where the plant is recreationally legal.