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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
  • Conspiracy.

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.

Why You Should Never Send Weed in the Mail

Monday September 17, 2018

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.

Until extensive laws change, let us be really clear, it is always a bad idea to send cannabis through the mail.

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.

It’s Illegal

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.

Sender and Receiver are Both Equally at Fault

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.

Say Goodbye to a Future in Cannabis

If you work in the cannabis industry, or have any aspirations of getting into it, that would become impossible after a charge. Even if someone was okay with risking a fine or jail time, those in the cannabis industry may also be risking their livelihood.

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.

Risk Losing Your Product

It’s probably the least of one’s concerns, but it’s still a huge bummer. Though prices are constantly falling, cannabis still costs money. Even if nothing legal happens, the product is likely to be confiscated. Every year, the DEA publishes data on the amount of seized cannabis. In 2017, the record was broken for cannabis seized leaving Colorado through the mail, and it became so problematic in Oregon that its US Attorney issued an editorial about how overproduction was driving the black market. He stated, “In 2017 alone, postal agents in Oregon seized 2,644 pounds of marijuana in outbound parcels. ”

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…

The Government Probably Knows You Did It

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 it ever becomes advantageous to use that information at a later time, they can. Statutes of limitations will vary from state to state, but are generally longer for drug trafficking than drug possession. The current limit in California is five years from the date of the incident, just to give you an idea. One postal agent who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity put it simply, “We know. We always know. It’s either not worth the time, or we’re waiting for the right time.” Usually, after first being detected, they start to watch your activity and wait to see if there’s a larger charge to prosecute you for while you continue to send packages under a false sense of security, continuing to incriminate yourself.

The Consequences Outweigh the Risks

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.

Do you have anything to add to why mailing cannabis is a bad idea? Share your thoughts below!

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.