Photo via U.S. Navy
Federal postal inspectors in Colorado seized more packages containing cannabis than ever before in 2017, once again bringing attention to the continued proliferation of black market bud originating from legal weed states.
Discovered in a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Denver’s local ABC affiliate, U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees in Colorado discovered 934 packages of weed, up over 16% from last year’s statewide total of 805.
“U.S. Postal Inspectors continue to aggressively target individuals who use the postal service to distribute controlled substances,” said Dana Carter, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Denver Division, in a press release announcing the one-year prison sentence of a Colorado man found guilty of trafficking cannabis by mail. “Our efforts to protect the nation’s mail, and postal customers, from illegal drug shipments are highlighted in cases such as these, where repeat offenders are sent to federal prison.”
According to Denver7, the documents turned over in the Freedom of Information Act request did not specify if packages were seized arriving or departing from the Centennial State, but given Colorado’s flourishing legal cannabis industry in the face of continued prohibition across much of the country, it’s relatively safe to assume that most of those packages were on their way out of state.
Outside of Colorado, those numbers follow recent nationwide trends that saw total USPS cannabis seizures rise steadily over both 2015 and 2016. According to a report from U.S. News and World Report, federal authorities seized over 9,000 cannabis shipments during that period.
But while postal workers and their trusty drug dogs have gotten better at picking pot out of packages, federal officials have been less adept at arresting the trafficking culprits, with only 1,805 arrests made for sending drugs of any kind, including cannabis, through the mail in 2016, 4% fewer than in 2015.
Responding to those discrepancies between seizures and arrests as well as the reality of America’s black market for marijuana, federal prosecutors have interpreted Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent policy pronouncements on pot by not cracking down on state-legal cannabusiness and instead increasing investigation of illicit weed deals, with an explicit focus on interstate trafficking.
At a Department of Justice (DOJ) summit in Portland, Oregon last week, federal attorneys from across the country said they had no plans to enforce federal law in state-legal weed, but stressed the importance of stepping in to prevent black market canna-business, with U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams telling the group his office is “going to do something” about the state’s highly publicized cannabis overproduction issue.
Of course, illegal cannabis trafficking was never protected by the Obama-era Cole memo that Sessions revoked last month, and created no new funds or programs to help in the fight against black market bud. Even after the DOJ summit, it is still unclear what (if any) concrete changes will be made to federal cannabis enforcement.