Is Your Friendly Neighborhood Postman Stealing Your Weed?

Photo by Dan Skye

Shipping marijuana via the mail is always a dicey proposition. There is nothing legal about it—the U.S. Postal Service is a federal entity, and federal law trumps state law, making even an in-state cannabis delivery illegal—and tales of dummies literally writing their own indictment on the envelope abound.

And even if the police don’t show up at your door when you were expecting that package of contraband, there’s a serious probability your shipment still disappears, without ever falling into the hands of police. It might have been stolen by the likeliest suspects of all: the government employees handling the mails.

Postal workers discover marijuana in the mail with reliable frequency. USPS found 34,000 pounds of mailed cannabis in 2015, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—a figure that’s in fact significantly down from the 47,000 pounds found in 2013, the last year before recreational marijuana retail shops opened up in Washington and Colorado—and about 1,000 people are arresting for mailing drugs or drug money every year.

Following the adage that law enforcement of any stripe only finds ten percent of what’s out there, the mailman is indeed the neighborhood’s biggest unwitting drug dealer, a reality copped to by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who with a straight face called the amount of drugs sent with a stamp “shocking.”

And once the weed is found, postal workers have a mysterious habit of leaving it lying around, unsecured, in a fashion that would make it very easy to steal or go “missing,” a recent audit unearthed by US News & World Report discovered.

Auditors with the postal service inspector general found severe security lapses at all seven postal facilities around the country it reviewed, including suspected marijuana stashed in an unlocked office, left “unguarded” on a table, and the lock on a “cage” used to store suspect packages mysteriously broken, with no ready explanation how or why that came to be. Keep in mind this is just seven out of 32,000 post offices nationwide.

Whether or not postal employees are actually stealing the weed they find hidden among the flood of Amazon packages is a state secret. The Oct. 12 audit acquired by US News was heavily redacted.

A typical paragraph from the audit reads like this: “At the REDACTED the station manager stated they were instructed to REDACTED. They were also instructed to REDACTED.”

Not that this problem is any secret. It’s no coincidence that the audit was launched following a string of incidents in which USPS workers were found to be steering weed through the mail on behalf of traffickers.

At least 11 mail carriers have been arrested and charged with drug-dealing over the past year, including a supervisor and two mail carriers in Washington, D.C. who allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for ensuring pot mailed from California sailed through safely, and another five mail carriers in suburban Cleveland who worked mailbag-in-glove with a local drug dealer.

The publicly available parts of the audit make no mention if those facilities were inspected or which prior embarrassments launched the probe, which ran from January of this year to October.

Some of this may not be all the workers’ fault. The inspector general found that most mail service employees had no idea what to do when discovering a package containing marijuana, with no set protocol in place for reporting the discovery or securing the contraband.

This situation “could expose employees to harm or danger, foster criminal activity, adversely affect drug investigations and prosecutions, and negatively impact the Postal Service’s brand and integrity of the mail,” the audit found. (Though, presumably, it could also help with recruitment.)

Rather than lay blame or proffer theories as to what happened to that pound of Humboldt Royal Kush your “friend” in the Florida Keys was expecting, the inspector general audit recommends solutions, including adopting a uniform policy that specifically addresses what to do when a pot-bearing package is found. It was unclear what that policy would entail or when it would be implemented due to the redactions, but one takeaway is clear: If there was a golden age of sending marijuana through the mails, it appears to be over, sunsetting just as widespread marijuana legalization dawns.


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