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mailing weed out of colorado

How do you stop people from mailing weed illegally? Local law enforcement is trying to figure it out

CINCINNATI — Ricky Lee Harris Germany delivered mail. He drove city U.S. Post Office Route 7 in Columbus for five years.

Then, a lunch habit bit him.

In September of 2018, an anonymous tip to U.S Postal Inspectors claimed Germany stole over 100 pounds of weed out of the mail over a six month period.

The unidentified person, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, said Germany spent lunch breaks checking large parcels, mostly from California, for drugs. If he found marijuana or methamphetamine, Germany took them home, where a contact allegedly took the drugs to sell and split money with Germany.

Germany told postal inspectors his primary parcel target was marijuana.

He pled guilty in September 2019 to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.

The WCPO 9 I-Team examined court records that show police agencies seize varying quantities of marijuana products shipped to the Tri-State nearly every month.

In 2012, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson pled guilty after accepting a two-pound shipment of marijuana at his Kentucky home.

But that is old-school.

“Vaping is huge in the United States right now,” said E.R. Beach, owner of Hemptations. He has stores in Northside, O’Bryonville and Sharonville that sell CBD and hemp products. “It’s a new trend in cannabis, period. You can go out in public with them and no one knows. It’s a lot easier to hide your consumption with a THC vape cartridge.”

E. R. Beach, owner of Hemptations

Vape oil, whether it’s used with THC or nicotine, is flavored and, when heated, the vapor and smell is no different than other vape products, Beach and law enforcement officers said.

Beach sells hemp clothes, paper, plastic and food in his stores. He does not receive marijuana through the mail. But, when you work 25 years in his industry, you hear things, Beach said.

“Our medical marijuana program charges almost $500 (an ounce) for medicine, where you can get it shipped from Colorado probably for $250 a (ounce),” he said.

The Postal Service said in a statement it has “no interest in being the unwitting accomplice” to anyone distributing illegal drugs or paraphernalia in the mail. Inspectors, though, admit to seizing thousands of drug shipments and have a standing $50,000 reward for information about drugs or drug payments going through the mail.

“Our objectives are to rid the mail of illicit drug trafficking and the associated violence, preserve the integrity of the mail, and, most importantly, provide a safe environment for postal employees and Postal Service customers – the American public,” Kathryn Woliung, U.S. postal inspector and team leader public information officer said in a statement.

Kilos of THC vape cartridges seized

Last October, the Butler County Regional Narcotics Task Force intercepted a shipment of 952 vape cartridges, seven pounds of marijuana and THC disguised as lip balm, tootsie rolls, cannabis syrup and gummies packaged in birthday gift wrapping paper.

Records of executed search warrants made public show postal inspectors seized more than 38 kilograms of THC vape cartridges that same month in Milford. The package came from Montebello, California, through Priority Mail.

That same day, postal inspectors caught a priority mail shipment from Laguna Hills, California, to Oxford. It contained 1.5 kilos of THC vape cartridges and brown wax suspected to be THC wax.

A third seizure that found almost 24 kilos of THC vape cartridges was sent priority mail from La Mesa, California, to Hamilton.

“I really didn’t see them except for the last year or two,” Chris Coners, director of the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force, said. “Now, we’re seeing them in the thousands. We’re seizing thousands of them.”

Chris Coners, Director of the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force.

Coners said marijuana seizures in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties are smaller than the 300- to 500-pound hauls cops used to get in the ’90s.

What they seize now, though, is three times more expensive, he said. With THC potency near 80 percent in everything they seize, Coners thinks he knows the source.

“Nowadays we are receiving marijuana in this area that comes from those states, predominantly in the west: California, Washington, Oregon (and) Colorado,” Coners said. Recreational marijuana is legal in those states, plus eight others.

Leftovers lawsuit

The WCPO 9 I-Team asked for harvest and inventory data from the four states Coners named.

An email from the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board claims it does not “not have any way to answer” our questions.

A spokesperson for the California Cannabis Control Board first said “the state does not track that data.” Then, the California Department of Food and Agriculture told us “all of that data is confidential.”

Oregon and Colorado post numbers online.

In 2017, Colorado reported 26 percent of legally grown marijuana flower and buds went unsold. A year later, the figure rose to 29 percent. The state had only partial stats for 2019.

Oregon’s February inventory had 1.3 million pounds of useable, edible and marijuana concentrate. That is double what growers sold in the previous 12 months.

Growers in that state are supposed to destroy leftovers. So the onus is on police to prove any part of legal crops illegally land in the Tri-State.

“We do interviews,” Coners said. “We use other resources to determine the source of whatever we seized. Not always, but we often do find out where it originates whether or not we can put a case on those locations or people. The truth is a lot of it does get through, obviously.”

The National Police Foundation claims marijuana overproduction “has created issues for bordering states.”

In 2014, Oklahoma and Nebraska sued Colorado. The two states claimed flows of black market marijuana from Colorado “undermined their drug bans, drained treasuries and stressed criminal justice systems.”

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear that lawsuit.

Whatever rules or laws Kentucky passes, Coners’ team will enforce them, he said. He is also certain that drug smugglers will still try to deal by car, plane, train or parcel.

“The challenge hasn’t changed,” Coners said. “They’re trying not to get caught and our job is to figure out who is legally involved.”

The WCPO 9 I-Team examined court records that show police agencies seize varying quantities of marijuana products shipped to the Tri-State nearly every month.

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.