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
What are the Penalties for Mailing Marijuana Through the Postal Service?
Mailing marijuana is illegal, the US Postal Service will intercept your package, and you may be arrested…
This seems like it would be obvious, but people keep doing it. Every year, thousands of parcels are intercepted – for example, postal inspectors seized 39,301 pounds of marijuana in 2014 and 34,305 pounds in 2015.
Is it only illegal if you mail marijuana across state lines? What happens if you mail marijuana to an address in your own state? What if you live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use?
What are the Penalties for Mailing Marijuana?
Mailing marijuana is illegal under federal law, but it may also carry penalties under your state’s law. Although it varies from case to case, you could be charged in federal court, state court, or both…
What are the penalties for mailing marijuana under federal law and what are the penalties for mailing marijuana under South Carolina state law?
Federal Law Prohibits Mailing Controlled Substances
If you are busted mailing marijuana, you’ve probably violated more than a handful of federal laws. Just a few of the federal offenses you may be charged with include:
- Trafficking in marijuana;
- Misuse of the mail;
- Mailing of “injurious articles;” and
The potential penalties for mailing marijuana under federal law vary widely and may include mandatory minimum penalties depending on your criminal history. Some of the factors that will go into sentencing in federal court include:
- The amount of marijuana that was mailed by you;
- The amounts of marijuana mailed by other people if you are charged in a criminal conspiracy;
- Your criminal history, which can increase the sentencing range or result in a mandatory minimum sentence depending on the drug weight or whether you have certain types of prior convictions;
- Whether you accept responsibility (plead guilty); and
- Whether you “cooperate” with the authorities and how valuable your cooperation is to them.
Federal and state marijuana laws are changing quickly and may change dramatically in the next few years, but it’s not likely that it will become legal to mail large quantities of marijuana anytime soon, if ever.
For now, mailing marijuana in an amount less than 50 kilos carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if you have no criminal record and you are not charged with other federal crimes that carry additional penalties. The potential penalties double for a second offense – up to ten years and a fine of up to $500,000.
State Law in SC Prohibits Possessing or Trafficking Marijuana
What if the feds decide not to prosecute? Are you off the hook?
Possession or distribution of any amount of marijuana is illegal in South Carolina under state law, and possession or distribution of more than the amount permitted for personal use is illegal in every state, even “legal” states.
Five People Were Charged with Trafficking Marijuana Through the Mail in SC
As an example, we can look at five people who were recently charged with trafficking marijuana in Sumter, SC.
After a month’s long investigation, four people were charged with trafficking marijuana and conspiracy, while another person was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Three of the five were charged with trafficking marijuana in an amount between 100 and 2000 pounds. According to the article, though, only 14 pounds of marijuana were seized – six pounds that were delivered through the postal service and another eight pounds that were seized while serving a warrant after law enforcement made a controlled delivery of the packages.
How do 14 pounds turn into greater than one hundred pounds?
The article is not clear about this, but we can assume that, because the defendants are also charged with conspiracy to traffic marijuana, they are being charged with the drug weights mailed or received by their alleged co-conspirators as well as packages that were not seized by law enforcement…
What are the Penalties for Mailing Marijuana Under SC State Law?
Trafficking in marijuana carries a minimum of one year and up to ten years in prison under SC law if the weight is less than 100 pounds and if it is the person’s first offense. On a second offense, it carries a minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison…
If the amount of marijuana is less than 2000 pounds, like the charges of three of the Sumter defendants above, it carries a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years in prison.
How Do Police Catch People Who Mail Marijuana?
Marijuana has a distinctive odor, and, no matter how well you package it with vacuum seals, coffee grounds, or other odor controls, K-9 units will most likely be able to pick up on the scent. Even the slightest particles transferred from your hand to the bag may be enough to alert a trained dog to the presence of marijuana.
Of course, if it’s not vacuum sealed and odor-protected, human postal workers will also pick up on the scent…
In other cases, authorities may be tipped off by associates who have an axe to grind or who have been arrested themselves. In either case, law enforcement can quickly get a search warrant, confirm the contents of the package, and then set up a “controlled delivery,” where they allow the package to be delivered and received as law enforcement monitors and possibly records the transaction.
After the controlled delivery, law enforcement will return with arrest warrants and a search warrant for the residence where the weed was delivered.
Can I Mail Marijuana in a Legal State?
Although federal law prohibits the mailing of controlled substances between states, even mailing marijuana from one location to another within a legal state could subject you to arrest and prosecution.
Federal law aside, even in “legal” states it is not legal to possess or distribute marijuana in amounts greater than what is allowed for personal use.
When can you mail marijuana?
Never. Do not mail marijuana or any controlled substances.
SC Marijuana Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
If you do find yourself accused of mailing marijuana through the postal service, do not make any statements to law enforcement or “go in for questioning” until you have met with your criminal defense attorney. The Myrtle Beach marijuana defense lawyers at Coastal Law will investigate your case, negotiate a dismissal or other agreement that you agree with, or take your case to trial.
Call now at (843) 488-5000 or send a message through the website to speak with a SC marijuana defense attorney today.
Ready to Speak with an Attorney?
Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.
The penalties for mailing marijuana depend on the weight of the marijuana, whether you are charged in state or federal court, and your criminal history.