Under the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, the USPS can ship certain products, as long as specified conditions are met. We often get asked how safe it is to mail cannabis, particularly across state lines in the US or even abroad. Are inspectors looking out for cannabis in the mail? Is it legal? Are you likely to get caught? If so, what’s the penalty for mailing or receiving weed in the post? The truth is that the … Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) acknowledged that cannabis seeds are in fact legal products under provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill as
U.S. Postal Service: Yes, Hemp and Hemp-Based Products Can Be Shipped by Mail
Under the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, the USPS can ship certain products, as long as specified conditions are met.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) updated its “Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail” policy June 6 to provide new mailing standards for products derived from cannabis and industrial hemp.
According to its website, the USPS has received numerous inquiries from both businesses and consumers looking to use its services to transport CBD products. In its recent bulletin, the USPS clarified that the 2014 Farm Bill, which authorized states to implement hemp cultivation programs, as well as the 2018 Farm Bill that federally legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp, allow the USPS to ship some products derived from industrial hemp, under specific conditions.
A business that wishes to ship those products must have a license from its state’s Department of Agriculture to produce industrial hemp, according to USPS policy, and the THC concentration of any product mailed must not exceed 0.3 percent. Once the 2018 Farm Bill is fully implemented and states begin to regulate hemp and hemp-derived products, the USPS will further amend its policy on the transport of hemp and hemp-based products, according to the bulletin.
Those businesses are responsible for complying with all laws and regulations that govern mailability, the USPS said. While they are not required to present documentation proving state licensure and THC content at the time of mailing, this documentation may be requested should there be doubt about the item’s mailability or the addressee’s ability to legally receive it.
High Falls Hemp, a New York-based hemp-derived product manufacturer, has been shipping with the USPS for over a year, according to Managing Director Sheila Doyle. The company only ran into an issue once, Doyle said, when a particular post office branch had a misunderstanding of hemp products.
“They questioned ‘how we knew it would not blow up on an airplane,’ so clearly they were assuming that all hemp-CBD products were vapes,” Doyle said. “This is not the case as we do not sell vapes. They also told us it needed to be packed in a special way, so at the time it was a little confusing.”
High Falls Hemp employees now carry the required documents to show the USPS that the company’s products are compliant, should a question arise, Doyle said. “Our products also have QR codes on them that lead to a web page containing the third-party lab reports on each product. That will also make it easier to show anyone what is in the product and the proper low-level of THC.”
Recently, High Falls Hemp shipped hemp seeds internationally, and although other carriers declined the shipments, the USPS accepted them after reviewing the required documentation.
“It is a big deal for the industry to be able to ship via USPS, and I also think it is a great move for the USPS to get in on the ground floor by accepting this industry,” Doyle said.
The USPS’s new guidelines for hemp and hemp-derived products are part of a larger industry trend that has been evolving over the past couple of months with the normalization of the market, according to Lex Pelger, director of education at CV Sciences, a producer of cannabis-based products.
“I think this is a big deal,” Pelger told Cannabis Business Times. “That’s really important, to have these kinds of clarifications, to have the USPS say, ‘This is completely legal.’ It does matter, and you see other agencies following suit in their various departments.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), for example, updated its policy last month to allow travelers to bring certain CBD products on flights.
“I think that the USPS stepping up to clearly lay out their policy was wise given the movement towards the acceptance and legalization of hemp in the U.S. post 2018 Farm Bill,” said Jason Mitchell, co-founder and president of Hemp Fusion, a provider of hemp-based products. “This move also provides additional support for this movement and thus helps to create a sense of acceptance by other organizations.”
Now that the USPS has updated its hemp and CBD policies, Pelger sees it as positive for not only hemp- and CBD-related businesses, but also shipping businesses, like the USPS, which will now have more packages to send around the country.
“It might be a drop in the bucket compared to all the packages shipped in the United States, but it’s one more category of product that’s going to be shipped a lot more,” Pelger said.
Although CV Sciences ships its products through UPS, Pelger has previously worked at companies that used the USPS, and he has never seen any major issues arise with either of these major carriers when transporting hemp and hemp-derived products.
“Because they’re such a normalized product and they just simply look like another plant extract, in general, it doesn’t seem like it’s raising red flags,” he said. “Often, I would suspect people don’t even know or care what’s in there. It doesn’t seem like they’re looking for it.”
Even so, businesses and consumers have historically been fearful of shipping these products through the mail due to the regulatory gray area, Pelger said. Now that the USPS has clarified its policy to definitively allow the shipment of these products, it will allow industry stakeholders to breathe a sigh of relief.
“When I’m out on the road, I hear a lot of elderly folks, especially, being worried about this being shipped to their house, being worried about legality, being worried about their insurance companies,” Pelger said. “To have a statement like this to let them rest easy … means there are going to be a lot more grandmothers or parents around the country who are finally going to feel safe enough to buy a hemp extract online and have it shipped to their house. And that could be a really important thing for their health.”
For companies shipping hemp and hemp-based products, it should be business as usual, Pelger said, although businesses should read the USPS’s guidelines very carefully and be aware of some kinks that need to be worked out.
“They’re not simple,” he said. “It involves three different prongs: a self-certification statement, a license issued by that state’s Department of Agriculture, and then saying that [the hemp or hemp-derived product contains] less than 0.3-percent THC. What the USPS actually said is kind of confusing and doesn’t quite make sense with how some of the industry works because for some companies, like ours, we don’t have a license from any local department of agriculture because none of our hemp is grown in the United States. We’re using only Dutch hemp, and so we don’t need to deal with the USDA for growing hemp. So, we wouldn’t have a license from them, and it’s something that’s required.”
Companies in the space should also be mindful of local authorities who may not align with the USPS policy, or the USDA’s recent memo clarifying that hemp can be legally transported across state lines.
“Even though they’re saying this is true, there are still shipments being seized in the country, like in Idaho, for perfectly legal hemp shipments going through,” Pelger said. “The local cops don’t like it, and even though it’s legal under the federal law, it’s months and months of back and forth to try to get back their plants.”
Indeed, the case of Denis Palamarchuk, who was transporting hemp through Idaho on his way from one licensed company to another earlier this year when police officers asserted he was carrying illegal marijuana through the state, demonstrates federal and state tension that law enforcement authorities and agricultural regulators have been wrestling since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Even so, Pelger said the USPS memo offers some much-needed clarity that can be amended as more guidelines are handed down from other applicable federal agencies. “This new memo is a great step in the right direction, but as it says on the issuing statement, this is a memo subject to change. So, they’re still working out what exactly this needs to look like, but you can tell that they’re working hard to try to do their best to be on the right side of the 2018 Farm Bill and where all these laws are moving.”
Mailing Weed: Is It Safe, Even In America?
We often get asked how safe it is to mail cannabis, particularly across state lines in the US or even abroad. Are inspectors looking out for cannabis in the mail? Is it legal? Are you likely to get caught? If so, what’s the penalty for mailing or receiving weed in the post?
The truth is that the United States Postal Service does keep an eye out for drugs trafficking. After all, sticking your drugs in the mail is pretty easy to do. And more of us do it than you would probably think.
Let’s take a closer look at the current state of play and what you should, if anything, be worried about. We advise you read this carefully before you seal up the envelope with cannabis in it and send it out through the post.
You’re about to be unpleasantly surprised.
The War on Drugs
We all have access to sites that sell drugs and we can reach out with a few clicks of a mouse button or a couple of taps on our mobile phones to get what we want. It’s easy to buy and sell practically anything nowadays, even if it is illegal.
The truth is that most of these individuals on the dark net use still the good, old-fashioned US Postal Service to get their product from A to B.
But marijuana is legal, isn’t it? There’s no problem here? Yes, in many states cannabis is allowed for both recreational and medicinal use.
Here’s the thing, though. It is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act and that means you can’t mail it to anyone. We’ll let that sink in for a moment.
US Postal Service inspectors are currently fighting a huge battle against the importation of illegal drugs, so you have to give them some leeway. Many of these narcotics are pretty dangerous, after all. And they are only applying the letter of the law.
Whatever you feel about the legality or otherwise of cannabis, you just have to accept that mailing weed is not allowed under federal law. And that’s unlikely to change soon. You may think it’s a little absurd. Many people do. But that doesn’t escape from the fact that, if you get caught, you can spend some significant time behind bars.
Mailing Weed: What Are the Statistics?
Postal inspectors are federal agents, the real deal, on a par with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The latest stats show that thousands of people are arrested each year for some form of drug trafficking offense through the mail. It can be difficult to get exact figures from the USPS but in 2013, postal inspectors discovered about 9,000 parcels containing in total about 47,000 pounds of weed.
There were 2,622 arrests for mailing controlled substances but it’s not clear how many of these were actually mailing weed. The truth is, however, that marijuana is the most often intercepted drug in the US. You shouldn’t be surprised by this as it’s legal in many states. Many people are posting out their weed without even realizing they are breaking the law.
There is some evidence that the levels of cannabis seized have come down in recent years. That’s probably because more stores are opening in legal states which means people don’t have to post out anymore or at least they are posting less. It could also be because many companies know that it’s a federal crime to be mailing weed inside and outside the US. They certainly don’t want to get into trouble.
No knows, however, how much marijuana actually gets through the postal system. The inspectors may well only be seeing the tip of the iceberg. There are millions of letters and parcels posted across the US every day. It’s fair to say that the large majority mailing weed are getting their deliveries through. But that doesn’t mean you will never get caught.
Why Do So Many Risk Mailing Weed?
With strict penalties in force and our intrepid US Postal Service inspectors looking out for drugs of all sorts, it’s a surprise that people still use this method of delivery.
One reason may be down to confusion. Many people think, just because cannabis is legal in their state, that it’s safe to start mailing weed anywhere in the country. They don’t realize it is a federal crime and that they could go to jail because they haven’t bothered to check the rules.
The other issue might be that people think it is safer. They’re prepared to take the risk of getting caught to have a product they can rely on, rather than buying from some shady crook on a street corner where they could risk personal injury. That could particularly apply to those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes and aren’t used to the darker side of obtaining drugs.
Before cannabis was legalized in many states, most of our drugs were transported over the border from Mexico. It’s only since businesses have started making their homegrown product that the power and influence of the cartels have been diminished, at least for cannabis. There is growing opinion that mailing weed should be decriminalized if states are now making recreational and medicinal use legal – there doesn’t seem a point in prohibition in this sense.
It would also give Americans the chance to build a cannabis industry that provides more jobs and opportunities. But don’t hold your breath if you think it’s going to happen within the next couple f years. Drugs law is not high on the federal agenda, even if stats have their own way of doing things.
Other Postal Services and Mailing Weed
Of course, USPS isn’t the only postal service available. There are others.
So, are you better off trying anther company and will you be less likely to get caught? The big ones that come to mind are FedEx, DHL and UPS. Actually, you may be more at risk.
Currently the US Postal Service needs a warrant to open your mail under the 4th Amendment. Private companies stipulate in their rules and regulations that they reserve the right to open any package they deem as suspicious, and that includes ones which may contain drugs.
It’s even been to the Supreme Court for a ruling – you can’t expect your parcel to be private at all if you use one of these companies. FedEx was even taken to court at one point and charged with playing a roll in trafficking drugs because they weren’t being so vigilant. That would suggest private courier firms are likely to be checking your parcel if you are mailing weed as they are trying to avoid prosecution and perhaps a hefty fine in the US.
At the end of the day, therefore, the US Postal Service could well be the safer bet if you are planning on mailing weed anytime soon. That’s pretty cold comfort.
What If I Get Caught Mailing Weed?
The big question, of course, is what happens if you do get caught mailing weed? While the US Postal Service may only be intercepting a fraction of the drugs passed through the mail, they do have some success. Budget cuts and a loss of employees haven’t helped, neither has the fact that their detection mechanisms remain relatively unsophisticated. That works in your favor but it’s not a chanceless pursuit.
If you are caught mailing weed, the chances are you will be looking at a prison sentence. It’s still classed as a Schedule 1 drug and any amount under 50 grams could see you getting five years in the nearest penitentiary. That’s irrespective of whether the cannabis was for your own use or you were just doing a favor for a friend. As you might expect, for larger amounts you could be facing much more jail time.
There is the story of a Texan who went to Colorado and bought about $50,000 of cannabis. Mailing the weed to his home address seemed a good idea but along the way someone at USPS decided his packages looked suspicious. When he went to his local postal depot to pick up the delivery, the cops were waiting for him. He now faces the possibility of between 8 and 24 years in prison.
Mailing Cannabis Seeds
While mailing weed is illegal in the US and in many other countries, mailing cannabis seeds is not. That may sound slightly counterintuitive but seeds are not actually a drug – they can just be grown into one. For example, it’s legal to buy cannabis seeds over the counter or have them posted to you in the UK but it is illegal to germinate those seeds and grow a cannabis plant.
It’s always important to check the law where you live and whether it is legal to receive cannabis seeds, irrespective of whether you grow them or not. We do not advise mailing weed in the US or anywhere else – the risk is just not worth it.
We offer discreet packaging & delivery insurance options when you order cannabis seeds on our online store.
Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.
Not only do we have one of the most comprehensive libraries of cannabis seeds in the world, we now offer a diverse range of cannabis related goods for you to enjoy including storage products, clothing and books.
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Experts Warn Against Mailing Cannabis In Light of Recent DEA Ruling
While a recent DEA letter appeared to suggest that cannabis material containing less than 0.3% THC is federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, legal experts still caution against sending seeds, clones, and other byproducts by mail.
Full story after the jump.
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Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) acknowledged that cannabis seeds are in fact legal products under provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill as long as they contain less than the 0.3% THC legal threshold qualifying them as hemp. The attorney who sent the letter that sparked the review, Shane Pennington, who serves as counsel in Vicente Sederberg’s New York office, cautioned though that not much will change for the industry in the short term just because of the DEA’s letter.
“To everybody out there who is saying, ‘This is one simple trick to mail marijuana,’ please, please hear me – it is not. This is not what this is. Before you do anything consult your attorney – I would say consult your attorney and read the letter, because if the letter doesn’t say ‘You can mail it,’ I would not assume you can. I just want to be very clear about that.” – Pennington to Ganjapreneur
Pennington, who tries cannabis cases in federal court, sent the letter because it was obvious to him that the “governing principle” under the Farm Bill for distinguishing legal hemp from illegal cannabis under federal law was the 0.3% THC threshold, rather than the so-called “source rule” which dictates that anything derived from an illegal source, regardless of THC content, is illegal.
Under the source rule, seeds and clones sourced from outlawed cannabis are also considered controlled substances under federal law despite THC concentrations falling below the 0.3% threshold outlined in the Farm Bill.
Pennington said that many people in the cannabis industry argued that the source rule was the lay of the land and that the Farm Bill had no effect on the legal status of seeds and clones that could grow into THC-rich plants, prompting Pennington to ask the DEA for an official determination on the status of cannabis seeds.
“Of course, the DEA has been wrong about plenty of stuff,” Pennington said, “I sue them all the time. Nonetheless, they do speak with authority on the law and if I could get an official determination I could at least tell these people, ‘Look, we don’t have to argue anymore.’”
In the letter to Pennington, DEA Chief of the Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section Terrence L. Boos, concludes that “marihuana seed that has a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3[%] on a dry weight basis meets the definition of ‘hemp’ and thus is not controlled” under the Controlled Substances Act – and not just seed, but “tissue culture and any other genetic material” containing less than 0.3% THC.
But, Pennington said, that letter didn’t end all arguments, which he said have evolved into claims that cannabis seeds, clones, and basically anything with less than 0.3% THC could now be mailed, brought across state lines, and shared between states that have legalized cannabis.
Nat Pennington, the founder and CEO of Humboldt Seed Company (and not related to Shane), pointed out that California’s adult-use law is very clear that seeds cannot be transferred in or out of the state regardless of current federal policies. Nat points out that in newly legal states there is often a baked-in “immaculate conception clause” which allows companies and cultivators to start growing for the program but turns a blind eye to exactly where that first batch of seed is sourced from. The DEA letter, in Nat’s view, takes some of the risk out of that first legal grow because the companies are definitely not violating the source rule by simply possessing the seeds, clones, or tissue culture as long as they don’t exceed federal THC limits for controlled substances.
While California’s rules on seeds are very strict, the rules in Oklahoma, another state where Humboldt Seed Company operates, are not.
“You don’t have to prove that they came from within the state’s system,” Nat said in an interview with Ganjapreneur. “And they also don’t keep track or want to regulate what happens to the seeds that are created within the system – they’re treated just like tomato seeds or anything else.”
Oklahoma does require all seeds in the state to be tested for invasive plants and germination rates, Nat said.
“As long as states don’t have a closed loop like California, there is more potential for seed sharing,” he said.
According to Nat, the big deal in the DEA’s response is that it likely opens the window for research and intellectual property and the ability to “follow normal seed laws.”
“There’s an opportunity to really have the states look at it differently – the industry could really benefit a lot from, for example, being able to bring cannabis seeds onto campus for genomic analysis. It’s silly to not be able to utilize that.” – Nat Pennington to Ganjapreneur
While many colleges and universities are offering cannabis-related certificates and degree programs, none of them have offerings that touch the plant (including seeds) because they receive federal funding.
In 2019, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) did release the following guidance about mailing hemp as defined under the farm bill:
“Hemp and hemp-based products, including cannabidiol (CBD) with the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of such hemp (or its derivatives) not exceeding a 0.3 percent limit are permitted to be mailed only when:
- The mailer complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws (such as the Agricultural Act of 2014 and the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018) pertaining to hemp production, processing, distribution, and sales; and
- The mailer retains records establishing compliance with such laws, including laboratory test results, licenses, or compliance reports, for no less than 2 years after the date of mailing.”
Shane said that the issue of whether cannabis seeds could be mailed likely needs clarification by USPS officials in light of the DEA letter.
“All that this letter says is what DEA thinks the [CSA] means at the time that they wrote that letter with respect to these particular substances,” he explained. “It’s not saying it’s legal to mail stuff under federal law or state law – it’s not saying anything about state law. … This letter doesn’t change California law on this stuff. It doesn’t change was USPS thinks are verboten cannabis products.”
The letter, Shane said, doesn’t legalize interstate commerce of clones, doesn’t change any rules on marketing or advertising, or the positions of any other federal agency.
The real significance, Shane said, is that it offers some clarification for “third-party regulators” such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state regulators, law enforcement agencies, because they “take their cues” from the DEA on controlled substances policy.
“If you read opinions from state courts about trying to draw lines under state law on hemp and marijuana, they will cite DEA regs and DEA guidance,” he said. “The point is that, while it’s not immediate, over time as these regulators and lawmakers realize that DEA’s views are more flexible than they realized, it is entirely reasonable to expect that they will loosen up some of their standards as well.”
Shane explained that what will really determine how quickly and dramatically those standards change is how quickly people use the letter to lobby state lawmakers, regulators, and other agencies.
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