Is It a Crime to Send Drugs Through the Mail?
In an age where you can order just about anything online and have it shipped to your door within a couple of days, most people don’t think anything about sending various items through the mail.
But what about medication? Is it ever okay to send your cousin some leftover antibiotics? What about some painkillers you don’t need anymore? If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, can you ship it to someone else in a different state? There are very serious consequences for sending certain substances through the mail, and people who break the law could face long-term consequences. If you have been charged with sending or receiving any kind of drug through the mail, you should speak with a federal defense lawyer, like John Helms, as soon as possible.
Illegal to Send Drugs Through the Mail
As the opioid crisis has grown increasingly serious, police and federal investigators have started focusing on drugs sent through the mail. Postal inspectors can screen packages to check for drugs like marijuana and other substances.
Some people may attempt to send drugs through the mail because they believe the Fourth Amendment protects them from having their packages searched. Typically, a postal worker isn’t permitted to open a package in order to see what’s inside and if the contents contain anything illegal. To be able to inspect a package, a postal worker or inspector must usually obtain a search warrant based on a reasonable suspicion that the package contains something illegal.
The U.S. postal service is part of the federal government, and it has an inspection service of its own that oversees packages. There are more than 200 federal laws that govern criminal conduct with respect to the postal service. An individual who violates these laws could face a felony charge.
However, there are differences between the federal postal service and private carriers like Fed Ex and UPS. In fact, private package companies have become sensitive to the increase in shipments that contain drugs and other illegal items. In 2013, UPS entered into a non-prosecution agreement and paid a $40 million fine for its alleged role in illegally shipping cigarettes that weren’t properly taxed.
It’s against the law to ship marijuana through the mail. It’s also against the law to mail other drugs like heroin and prescription drugs, even if the person sending the package had a valid prescription.
However, it’s not against the law for a properly licensed pharmaceutical company to mail a prescription medication as long as the recipient has a valid prescription from a doctor. In recent years, companies like online pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies have begun offering prescription services through the mail. As long as these companies are licensed and operating legally, they can mail drugs to people with a valid prescription.
Sending Marijuana Through the Mail
Over the past few years, a number of states have made marijuana legal. In some states, marijuana is legal for recreational as well as medical use. However, in other states marijuana is still only legal for medicinal purposes. Currently, marijuana for recreational use is legal in 10 states, while marijuana for medical use is legal in 33 states.
However, marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, which means it’s illegal to ship it from one state to another through the mail. Since the postal service is a federal agency, and because shipping marijuana from one state to another also involves interstate commerce, shipping marijuana falls under federal jurisdiction.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that there can be serious federal penalties for the person shipping the marijuana as well as the person who receives it. Any individual who engages in shipping marijuana across state laws could face criminal charges involving drug possession and even drug trafficking.
According to one report, postal service inspectors seized over 37,000 pounds of marijuana in 2016 alone. Inspectors also seized $23.5 million in proceeds related to drug trafficking. Reports say that although it’s illegal to send marijuana and other drugs through the mail, the problem continues to increase. While postal service inspectors handle much of the screening and seizure of illegal drugs sent through the mail, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has also provided help as the problem has increased.
Help for Federal Mail Crimes
If you have been charged with sending a drug of any kind through the mail, it’s important to speak to a lawyer who handles federal cases. In some cases, a person may not realize that they weren’t permitted to ship drugs.
In cases involving federal law and the mail, it’s important to work with a lawyer who can help you understand your options. The penalties for federal crimes can be serious, and defending yourself in federal court can be an overwhelming experience. It’s best to work with a lawyer who understands federal law and has experience handling cases in federal court.
In an age where you can order just about anything online and have it shipped to your door within a couple of days, most people don’t think anything about
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