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Although weed is legal for recreational and medical uses in most U.S. states, it is still illegal at the federal level. If you are still curious whether it is legal to ship weed through the mail, the short answer is it's complicated!
It is technically illegal to ship marijuana and marijuana products anywhere in the United States. Still, it can vary out of the country, from one state to another, and even within a state.
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Because the United States Postal Service (USPS) is a federal agency, mailing weed is prohibited through the United States mailing routes. Weed is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which, in the eyes of the federal government, is considered illegal.
Therefore, shipping it across state lines is prohibited as it violates interstate commerce laws and is a federal crime.
When you send a package through mail order, a postal inspector or law enforcement officer needs a warrant to search it. And to get the warrant, they must have probable cause that there are drugs in the package.
Although some online weed companies claim that they pack the products so that humans or dogs cannot detect the drugs, this is usually not the case.
Once the package looks suspicious, USPS will get a warrant to search it. So, it is not recommended to try shipping weed through the USPS.
Factors that make a package suspicious include handwritten or missing return addresses, excessively taped, excessive postage, too much odor, and leaking or oddly shaped packages.
Private companies like FedEx, DHL, and UPS are not federal entities, so they do not need a warrant before they can search any package. They can open and search suspicious packages completely at their discretion.
Also, these private shippers cooperate with federal law enforcement so that they are not penalized for trafficking controlled substances. Using these shippers is unsafe, and there is a good chance that your shipment will be seized and you could face drug trafficking charges.
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If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, you can purchase marijuana products at dispensaries. There are also home delivery services available at authorized dispensaries. So, you can buy your preferred products online and have them delivered to your home. The entire process is legal and relatively easy.
However, there are some states where marijuana delivery services are unavailable. So, if you reside in any of these states, you must go to a dispensary before buying a marijuana product.
But, if you reside in a state where marijuana is illegal, buying marijuana products online and having them delivered to your house is unlawful.
There are significant risks associated with the mailing of weed in the United States. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) could charge you under federal law for transferring an illegal substance across state lines or drug trafficking.
You will face severe penalties, including fines and even prison sentences if you are convicted.
If you are not charged under federal law for ordering marijuana online, you could still be charged for violating the laws of the state you are mailing from or the state you are sending to.
Employees of USPS and private shippers are usually rewarded for providing helpful information that leads to the conviction of people who mail illegal substances. So, even if you are the recipient, you could face charges for conspiracy to distribute an illegal substance.
If you are caught shipping marijuana in the mail, federal drug laws will charge you with trafficking an illegal substance. The penalty will depend on the quantity of marijuana or products confiscated.
- Shipping 1-49 plants or less than 50 kilograms of a mixture is punishable by a five-year minimum sentence and a maximum of 10 years.
- Shipping 50-99 plants or 50–99 kilograms of a mixture is punishable by a five-year minimum sentence and a maximum twenty-year sentence.
- Shipping 100-999 plants or 100-999 kilograms of a mixture is punishable by a five-year minimum sentence and a maximum of 40 years.
- Shipping more than 999 plants or over 999 kilograms of a mixture is punishable with a ten-year minimum sentence and a life imprisonment maximum.
New guidelines were released in 2019 by the United States Postal Services, showing that the agency would be able to ship certain cannabis products. However, these guidelines were specifically for hemp products only. This is because hemp is a form of cannabis with very small quantities of THC. Since it will not cause an intense "high", it can be shipped legally.
It would help if you had a state Department of Agriculture license before legally using the USPS to ship hemp and other CBD products. In addition to the license, the guidelines also contain the following conditions:
- The mailer must obey all federal, state, and local laws that apply to the production, processing, distribution, and sales of hemp, like the Agricultural Act of 2014 and the Agricultural Improvement of 2018.
- It also states that the USPS will ship and deliver cannabis products produced from hemp that contain no more than 0.3% THC.
- The mailer must keep records showing the products comply with all laws and regulations, including licenses, laboratory test results, and compliance reports, for at least two years after the products are mailed.
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While it is still illegal to ship weed in the United States, the USPS guidelines provide necessary information on the topic. When cannabis becomes legal at the federal level, it will solve all the challenges facing shipping marijuana and hemp. But until then, it is illegal to ship weed across state lines.
However, remember that not all cannabinoids are illegal. So, even if cannabis is illegal in your state, you can still enjoy CBD products that contain less than 0.3% THC. They are legal at the federal level and can be shipped through the USPS and private shippers. The Distribute Controlled Substances Act may have something to say about it for now, but once marijuana becomes legalized federally, it won't be illegal.