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.
The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association forwarded an email with a warning to its 100+ members, indicating that it is illegal to use the United States Postal Service (USPS) to deliver newspapers that contain cannabis advertisements.
The notification from the USPS, an independent agency of the United States federal government, states:
“If a mailpiece contains an advertisement for marijuana, that mailpiece is nonmailable.”
It is unclear why Oregon newspapers are being targeted. Laura Hieb, executive director of ONPA, reported that her colleagues in Colorado have not received similar notices. In her email to Oregon newspaper executives, Hieb wrote:
“It is against the law. Unfortunately, ONPA cannot do anything about this.”
In her email, Hieb also wrote that the ONPA “strongly discourages” Oregon newspapers that rely on the U.S. mail for delivery from accepting “any type of marijuana advertising.”
As a result of the email, Hieb has been receiving many calls regarding the federal advisory, which she says, “has created more confusion than clarity.”
The federal advisory letter refers to marijuana’s Schedule I status, stating that it is “unlawful to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive buy or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.”
An attorney for the ONPA, Jack Orchard, has referred to the warning as “an interesting political document.” The notification seems to have originated from a postal office based in Portland, rather than a national office within the postal service.
Continues Orchard, “Why now? You can say what you want to say about recreational marijuana and the liberalization of marijuana laws in Oregon, but medical marijuana is in widespread use throughout the country and certainly has been part of the Oregon landscape for a long time. The timing of this lends a kind of fascinating political edge to this.”
Newspaper executives have reached out to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) for guidance on what triggered the notification. Nicole L’Esperance, a spokeswoman for Blumenauer, stated that both politicians are “in discussions with the postal service to seek clarification of what appears to be an outdated interpretation that is understandably puzzling to law-abiding Oregonians and small business owners in the state” and that they, “expect an explanation as soon as possible” from the postal service.
Like Colorado and Oregon, Washington State has both recreational and medical cannabis laws. Since 1998, Washington newspapers have been publishing advertising for medical cannabis, according to Marcia Van Dyke, executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
“Many of our newspapers have been running these ads for a while now in accordance with Washington state law,”
Can Dyke stated. None of them have never received such a notice from any members of the United States Postal Service.
Eight United States Postal Service workers from a facility in Bethpage, NY are in custody today for intercepting and stealing mailed packages of marijuana.
Over 129 pounds of cannabis was recovered from this operation, but that was just a portion of what was intercepted from over 260 marijuana packages that have been processed at the Long Island Priority Mail sorting plant since May of this year.
Federal investigators were first clued in to this operation because of three large, empty packages that were left in the backyard of an abandoned house. Those empty boxes were tracked back to the Bethpage facility where packages of this size are processed and sorted in a alarm-protected part of the plant. When law enforcement investigated further, it was uncovered that the alarm had been disabled for months.
Luckily for investigators, the facility was equipped with security cameras, and all footage was readily available. The security videos clearly displayed the eight facility employees removing the packages from the plant after working hours.
The intercepted packages were reportedly originating mostly from California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon, and obviously the senders did not report their illegal marijuana packages stolen.
photo credit: Aljazeera