Marijuana laws in a lot of states are loosening up lately, which may lead consumers to believe they can do more with the drugs than they used to. However, mailing marijuana remains illegal under federal law; and, the United States Postal Service (USPS) can and will intercept your package which could cause you to be arrested. In fact, every single year, thousands of mailed packages of pot are intercepted. During the fiscal year 2018, Postal Inspectors seized 96,668 pounds of mailed narcotics and other drugs and obtained 1,624 related drug crime convictions. While illegal under federal law, mailing marijuana is also illegal under many state laws. Although it varies according to the facts of each case, a violator can be charged in federal court, state court, or both.
Factors that influence the severity of the charges and resulting punishment include the amount of pot that was mailed, the amounts mailed by others if you are charged with conspiracy, the offender’s criminal history, how you choose to plead, and whether you cooperate with the authorities and how valuable that cooperation is to them, among other factors.
You cannot even mail marijuana in a state where it is decriminalized or “legal.” While federal law prohibits mailing it between states, even mailing the drug from one location to another in a legal state can subject you to arrest and prosecution.
Federal Law Prohibits Mailing Marijuana
United States federal law prohibits mailing controlled substances, of which marijuana is one – and, both the shipper and the recipient can be punished. The potential federal laws you violate when engaging in this behavior can include but are not limited to:
- Marijuana trafficking
- Misuse of the mail
- Mailing of injurious articles
As the law currently stands, the base charge for shipping less than 50 kilos of marijuana through the United States Postal Service can lead to up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. UPS and FedEx similarly prevent the shipping of materials that are prohibited by federal law. The biggest difference between the USPS and private couriers is that USPS has to obtain a warrant to search but FedEx and UPS (and others) do not – they can simply open your envelope, box, or other package as they wish. Since the federal government will indict these third-party carriers as co-conspirators in the distribution of controlled substances, they are likely to indict a shipper violating federal law. It doesn’t hurt that workers are offered up to $50,000 as a reward for finding and reporting those who ship marijuana.
Mailing hemp, however, may be a different story under the Farm Bills which federally legalized hemp products containing a THC content of less than 0.3% (this includes most, if not all, CBD products). However, hemp products can only be mailed by a licensed industrial hemp producer.
Pennsylvania State Laws on Marijuana
Cannabis remains illegal for recreational use in Pennsylvania, but possession of small amounts is decriminalized in several large cities. Pittsburgh City Council voted to decriminalize up to 30 grams in December 2015. The medicinal use of marijuana was legalized in 2016.
Pennsylvania law breaks down the offenses and penalties related to marijuana into four main categories:
- Possession: If you possess 30 grams or less of marijuana, it is charged as a misdemeanor and punishable by up to 30 days incarceration and a maximum fine of $500. If you possess more than 30g, while still a misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to up to one year of incarceration and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- Sale or Distribution: If you are alleged to have less than 30 grams for sale or distribution, the charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a maximum fine of $500. If the charge is for more than 30 grams, it is charged as a felony and punishable by two to five years of incarceration and up to $15,000 in fines. These penalties can be adjusted when the crime takes place near a school or recreational playground, when you involve a minor, and/or if you have a previous drug conviction.
- Cultivation: If you have any number of marijuana plants, you are charged with a felony punishable by two and a half to five years incarceration and up to $15,000 in fines.
- Paraphernalia: The charge for the possession or sale of marijuana paraphernalia is a misdemeanor, punishable by six to 12 months incarceration and up to a $2,500 fine. When it involves a minor at least three years younger, the incarceration time increases to two years and the fines increase to $5,000.
Pittsburgh Drug Crimes Lawyers
Although half the United States has legalized weed, shipping marijuana through the postal system or via courier remains illegal. The increase in the number of states legalizing weed has caused the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to keep a close eye on packages being shipped now more than ever before. If you have been charged with a state or federal drug crime in Pittsburgh, our criminal defense lawyers can help, so contact us today to learn more.