Sending Drugs Through The Mail Penalty

Drug Bust Photo

Mailing drugs without a license is a federal offense. Sending drugs legally through the mail requires a license with the DEA. This is considered distribution of a controlled substance. To apply, a person or business must be of the following: manufacturers, distributors, researchers, canine handlers, analytical laboratories, importers, and exporters. Chapter 13 Title 21 U.S.C. 822 covers this registration process with the Attorney General in detail.

The registration period for list 1 chemicals (used in the manufacture of controlled substances) is for no less than one year or more than three years. Persons registered by the Attorney General may manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances.

Possession of a controlled substance of list 1 chemicals has some exceptions to the requirement to register with the DEA such as the following:

  • An agent or employee acting in the course of employment for a registered manufacturer, distributor or dispenser.
  • Carrier or warehouseman possessing in the usual course of employment.
  • The ultimate user who possesses the controlled substance for his or her own use, household, or an animal owned or in the household.

To make matters more subjective, the Attorney General, by regulation may waive registration for certain manufacturers, distributors, or dispensers if it is consistent with public health and safety. Who is qualified to decide that? I don’t know the answer.

Does Registration Apply to Online Pharmacies?

Yes. Also the online pharmacy shall clearly display a declaration of compliance with Section 831 on it’s homepage. The homepage must have a hyperlink to page containing specific information about the pharmacy including address, contact information and licensing etc.

Can I get in Trouble for Shipping Edibles?

Depending on what the substance and quantity is will determine the punishment. Assuming the edibles are marijuana alone and the weight is less than 50 kilograms, the person may receive up to 5 years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine. The judgment shall also impose supervised release of at least 2 years in addition to imprisonment.

Yes. If caught by USPS, UPS or Fedex most likely the package will be referred to an investigator. Doing this is considered a 21 USC Section 841 Prohibited Act. This is knowingly or intentionally distributing a controlled substance.

For a person with a previous conviction accused of distribution, the punishment doubles to 10 years and $500,000 fine. The judgement shall include at least 4 years of supervised release in addition to imprisonment.


The statistics provided are not going to tell us how many shipments of drugs successfully were mailed and received at their destination. It is impossible to know how many packages successfully are mailed. The numbers only tell us what was detected and intercepted.

Shipping edibles does not have a much different position with the law than marijuana. However, shipping 50 to 99 marijuana plants regardless of the weight will increase the offense punishment to 20 years and a 1 million dollar fine.

What is the Drug Distribution Statute of Limitations?

It is 5 years. I sometimes get nervous phone calls from people worried about what they may have done illegally in the past. One which is “can I get in trouble for when I mailed marijuana a long time ago?”

The threat of prosecution decreases if a package is not detected. An investigation or surveillance will most likely take place with bigger and more frequent mailing operations. A one time small successful shipment most likely hasn’t triggered an investigation unless someone has been in contact instructing so.

The statute of limitation for “non capital” offenses is 5 years. This would apply to a shipment of marijuana. For different drugs that may involve minors or death, the limitations period may be longer. Each subsection of the law is different and needs to be read with the specific facts.

Is it a Crime for Receiving Illegal Drugs in the Mail?

Mens Rea is a latin term for guilty mind. There are 4 main recognized mental states- Intent, Knowledge, Reckless, Negligent. It is important to look at each statute in question to see if there is a mental state assigned. In Texas if a mental state is not assigned than it allows for at least a reckless mental state

It can be especially if you mailed them to yourself or it is traced to someone you know. It is possible that the package made it through the process without being detected and it is being watch under surveillance to see what you do with it. This is unlikely though if it is a small amount of marijuana.

Mental State or Mens Rea

The statute requires the mental state to be “knowingly or intentionally“. This means that it is not a strict liability crime. It requires knowledge or intent. It is important to remember this when considering your rights in the federal justice system.

  • “with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”

This may seem obvious, but at this point in time it is not wise to send drugs through the mail. It is a federal offense unless a person has the proper licensing. Maybe at a future time when all 50 states are legalized with marijuana it will be. The potential issue after legalization is taxing it before it is mailed to ensure the feds are getting their cut. But all that is on hold until the rest of the states catch up.

Can I Mail Prescription Drugs?

It is illegal to mail prescription drugs in most instances. But it is legal with the proper licensing that was mentioned above. You are not supposed to mail a loved one medication that they left at your house over the holidays. Even if you are mailing a legal prescription medication to yourself, there is no exception in the law allowing it. It would seem with our advanced society and legal system that we would have figured out a way around this. But not yet.

Controlled Substance Mail Back Program

Another exception to mailing prescription drugs is the §1317.70 Mail-back program. This allows for a unregistered “ultimate user” prescription possessor to dispose of prescription drugs by mailing them in pre addressed postage paid envelopes. The envelopes shall be spill proof and not marked as containing medication. The user shall not be required to provide any personal information when mailing the medication to a collector.

Technically it is illegal to mail someone “their” or yourself “your” prescription drugs. But should it be? Not really with a good reason. People do forget or run out of their prescription medication while away from home all the time. But this is just my opinion…

Criminal Defense Lawyer

This blog did not cover many of the other drugs, besides marijuana and prescription drugs, that may get mailed. There are many more punishments listed for the long list of illegal controlled substances that are illegally distributed by mail.

If you are facing any charges in this area please call me or contact me about your situation. I have very successful results for my clients. I try hard and care about my clients. Not every lawyer focuses on those qualities.

Author: Eric Torberson

Eric Torberson is a licensed attorney in Texas as well as licensed in the federal courts of the southern and western districts of Texas.