In May, the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced that it had obtained two guilty pleas from Ryan Schanck, 30, relating to his operation of a marijuana-by-mail scheme.

According to the DOJ, Schanck, “a resident of Las Vegas…pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and conspiracy to launder proceeds of marijuana trafficking…before United States District Judge David S. Cercone.”

The DEA, along with other federal agencies, investigated Schanck for years before arrest. His convictions stem from an operation that began in 2012 and involved obtaining marijuana in the western part of the United States and shipping it to Pennsylvania, with a focus on college campuses. The DOJ says that “during the operation of the conspiracy, Schanck conspired to distribute from 700 to 1000 kilograms of marijuana. He also conspired to launder approximately $258,404 in proceeds from marijuana trafficking.” Schanck has been sentenced to 71 months in prison.

Marijuana by Mail

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) is a federally funded task force whose mission, in its own words, “is to support the national drug control strategy of reducing drug use.” Critics of the group say it is prohibitionist. In 2017, the RMHIDTA released a report stating that “[s]eizures of Colorado marijuana in the U.S. mail” have “increased 844 percent from an average of 52 parcels (2009-2012) to 491 parcels (2013-2016) in the four-year average that recreational marijuana has been legal.” Weight increased too, “from an average of 97 pounds…to 984 pounds.” The report also notes that “[t]here are courier delivery service companies, with locations throughout the country, from which Colorado marijuana destined for other states has been seized.” Finally, the report uses capital letters in red ink to remind the reader that these numbers reflect only the amount that was seized and that “INTERDICTION EXPERTS BELIEVE THE PACKAGES SEIZED WERE JUST THE ‘TIP OF THE ICEBERG.’”

It seems reasonable enough to guess that 984 pounds is a small fraction of the amount of marijuana mailed out of Colorado in three recent years since legalization. If so, that means that while long stretches in federal prison await those who are caught, many are not getting caught. A news story cites reports from people who do not want to be identified that they have in fact mailed marijuana from Colorado and “have never been caught.”

Some websites offer advice on shipping marijuana, starting with “don’t.” But for those who do, reminders include that sending less than an ounce involves less risked jail time. Sites also list what makes a package suspicious. Red flags include misspellings, missing or obviously false addresses, too much wrapping tape, and above all dog-detectable odor.

Although some anonymous sources claim that they have shipped marijuana through the mail without a problem, the risk remains real. The RMHIDTA report quotes “U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor” as saying: “Just here in the St. Louis area, our postal inspectors have seized over 1,200 pounds of marijuana, from the mail, in the last year. We’ve become very good at identifying these packages.”

Meanwhile, in Canada, the government is preparing to allow its citizens to ship marijuana by mail.

What do you think? Is only the tip of the iceberg being caught mailing marijuana? How is marijuana shipped around the United States? Leave a comment below.

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