Marijuana-Stuffed Mail Intercepts Hit Another High, Postal Inspectors Say


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Marijuana-Stuffed Mail Intercepts Hit Another High, Postal Inspectors Say
About 45,000 pounds of pot didn't reach would-be recipients last year.

What's in that package? It's unclear how many packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service contain drugs, but the number of busts by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is on the upswing.

By Steven NelsonApril 7, 2014 | 4:29 p.m. EDT+ More
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service ended fiscal year 2013 on a high, intercepting 20 percent more pot-packed parcels and tallying 14 percent more arrests and indictments for mailing controlled substances than in the preceding year.

During the fiscal year, which ended in September, inspectors confiscated 45,000 pounds of cannabis concealed within 9,100 parcels, according to Paul Krenn, an assistant inspector in charge at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.

In fiscal year 2012 inspectors found 42,000 pounds of marijuana stashed in about 7,600 parcels.

[READ: Alaskans Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization Aug. 19]

Marijuana is far and away the most common drug intercepted by inspectors. In fiscal year 2013 marijuana intercepts comprised 68 percent of 13,389 drug-related seizures, up from 67 percent of 11,322 seizures the year before. The overall figures include trafficking proceeds.

Postal inspectors, often in cooperation with local and other national law enforcement agencies, secured 2,622 arrests and indictments for mailing controlled substances in fiscal year 2013, up from 2,299 arrests and indictments the preceding year.

Fiscal Year 2012Fiscal Year 2013Increase
Marijuana parcel intercepts7,6009,100+19.7 percent
Pounds of marijuana seized42,00045,000+7.1 percent
All drug and drug-related parcel seizures11,32213,389+18.3 percent
Arrests and indictments for mailing controlled substances2,2992,622+14 percent

The inspectors recently began tabulating arrests and indictments together. In previous years only arrests were recorded in year-end reports. The number of arrests in fiscal year 2012 – 1,760 – was 33 percent higher than the preceding year and up 200 percent from 2006.

It’s unclear if the increase in intercepts reflects an increase in shipments or merely better detection methods.

In addition to more traditional drug dealers, the Silk Road online drug marketplace – founded in 2011 – became a household name last year, with sellers using the mail system to deliver Internet-placed orders. Silk Road was taken offline by the FBI in October after more than 100,000 satisfied customers bought drugs.

[FLASHBACK: Silk Road's Customers May Be in Hot Water]

The U.S. Postal Service is the preferred carrier for many drug-shippers because it offers more stringent Fourth Amendment protection. Postal inspectors must acquire a search warrant based on probable cause before inspecting First Class mail and parcels. FedEx and UPS both specify in their terms of service that they reserve the right to open and inspect any package at their own discretion. That low bar for corporate carriers may be creeping higher – the California Supreme Court ruled in 2013, for example, that local police should have acquired a warrant before opening a FedEx package emitting a pungent odor of weed.


Marijuana Through the Years

There’s no apparent successor to Silk Road, but liberalized drug laws may contribute to a sustained upswing in intercepts. Postal inspectors seized 15 marijuana packages shipped from Colorado in 2010 and 209 in the first five months of 2013 – before recreational pot stores opened there, but after legalization for personal use – The Denver Post reported.

Krenn is reluctant to describe the service’s most effective drug-detection methods, which reportedly include drug-sniffing dogs and package profiling, saying, “If we gave you any detail …. they will build a better package.”

[EARLIER: Senators, Holder Say USPS Delivers 'Shocking' Amount of Drugs]

But he says a postal worker’s nose isn’t the most effective tool.

“There are other substances that smell like pot,” Krenn says. “It’s very possible for a letter to smell like something when it is not.”

During a Thursday Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said there is rampant drug abuse in some of her state’s most remote communities – where, she said, the only way to get illegal drugs was through the mail.

“Through the post office?” an astonished Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., asked.

“Through the U.S. post office,” Murkowski fumed, saying heroin and synthetic substances were flowing to isolated towns. “We need to get on it yesterday.”


"Silk Road was taken offline by the FBI in October after more than100,000 satisfied customers bought drugs."
I like the fact that they are "satisfied" customers!


Maybe I'm not aware of the current trends but two days ago I had I deal with someone who was AMS and was reportedly eating synthetic marijuana gummy bears. I'm sure stuff like that which I've never heard of could easily bypass the postal system and many other access points without questioning.


I get other stuff through usps. I don't smoke weed, but its a lot safer than alcohol. They need to legalize and regulate it already. We already have a liberal ass president and we can always use the revenue for their fucked up agendas.


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I have seen that happen a few times. Never tried it myself. I have received a lot of steroids though.
Usps is not a good way to for marajuana.