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Sunday October 3, 2021

By Erin Hiatt

mailboxes 420 Culture

Weed is fully legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, and many more states have medical marijuana and CBD-only laws on the books. Nonetheless, sending cannabis in the mail remains illegal and something you should never do. 

Why is that? Because weed remains federally illegal and federal drug policy is still the law of the land, therefore it is forbidden to send cannabis, oils, and edibles via USPS, FedEx, UPS, or other private shipping companies.

As counterintuitive as it seems, anyone who mails weed — no matter the type or amount — could face stiff penalties. Here’s why you should never send weed in the mail. 

Table of Contents:

  1. Penalties for Mailing Weed
  2. Can You Send Hemp Through the Mail?
  3. Shipping Delta-8 THC
  4. The Takeaway

Penalties for Mailing Weed

If you ship cannabis in the mail, federal drug law holds that you are trafficking an illegal substance, and the severity of the penalty depends on how much cannabis is seized.

Federal Penalties for Shipping Cannabis

  • Shipping between 1-49 plants and less than 50 kilograms of a mixture (the dry or shredded mix of flowers, stems, leaves, and seeds and its derivatives like concentrates or edibles) carries a five-year federal prison sentence, with a maximum penalty of 10 years if charged with a second federal offense
  • Shipping between 50-99 plants or 50-99 kilograms of a mixture is a 20-year sentence
  • Shipping between 100-999 plants or 100-999 kilograms of a marijuana mixture carries a five-year minimum and 40-year maximum
  • Shipping 1,000 or more plants or 1,000 or more kilograms carries a 10-year minimum and a life sentence maximum

Can You Send Hemp Through the Mail?

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp is legal (so long as it remains under 0.3 percent THC), and can be shipped in the mail under certain conditions.

Hemp Shipping Regulations

  • USPS: in order to comply with federal law, the product must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, and accompanying records must show that the product is legally compliant - including lab tests and results, compliance reports, and licenses must be kept for no less than two years after the dates of mailing
  • FedEx: guidance updated in January 2020 allows for the shipment of hemp-derived CBD products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Marijuana-derived CBD and any plants or marijuana products are forbidden
  • UPS: mailing any part of the industrial hemp plant is forbidden, but it does accept products made from hemp — including CBD — but only as permitted by applicable state and local laws

Shipping Delta-8 THC

Here’s where things get interesting. While delta-8 THC has been a lauded newcomer for cannabis businesses and consumers alike, it currently resides in a legal grey area. As delta-8 has grown more popular, the substance has come under increased scrutiny, and many states have taken steps to ban it, most recently Colorado and California, two of the nation’s largest cannabis markets.

That’s because delta-8 lies in the messy middle of legalization. Made from hemp-derived CBD, the processing of CBD into delta-8 to create an intoxicating cannabinoid could fall under the auspices of the 1986 Federal Analogue Act passed to combat synthetic “designer drugs.”

Delta-8 pre-roll joints
Because delta-8 is in a grey space, we do not recommend sending it through the mail. photo credit

This law states that “drugs that are similar in chemical structure and have a similar effect similar to or greater than that of a controlled substance and are intended for human consumption, must be treated as a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.”

As it currently stands, delta-8 has been banned even in legal cannabis states like Alaska, Arizona, and New York, and many other states have banned or restricted sales. While regulators continue to grapple with how to manage delta-8, shipping it in the mail is probably not the best idea.

The Takeaway

Cannabis laws in the U.S. can often be confusing because of their patchwork nature and overarching federal illegality, but there are a few consistencies. 1) any cannabis product that contains more than 0.3 percent THC should be considered illegal to ship in the mail, and carries risk of penalties like prison 2) industrial hemp is legal to mail throughout the U.S., but all applicable laws should be precisely followed 3) sending delta-8 through the mail should be thought of as a risk and avoided, at least for the time being.

Do you think it should be legal to ship weed in the mail? Send a message in the comments.

Photo Credit: Ethan Hoover (license)


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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