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Consequences to mailing drugs?
July 26, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

What possible consequences could there be to attempting to send illegal drugs via mail without a return address? Is there any way the intended recipient could catch shit?

what about something more questionable than illegal like marijuana seeds?
posted by nitor to Grab Bag (42 answers total)
 
The sender can also be tracked beyond the return address. It is a federal crime by putting it in the mail, even if it still within your state. If you think they can't find the sender from the evidence left on the package, just watch a few episodes of any of the major crime shows out there right now. They aren't always accurate, but they do point out that what you think is clean can be a signed confession to the authorities.
posted by slavlin at 9:46 AM on July 26, 2009


the recipient would be in canada, and the sender in amsterdam (probably not a federal crime there!)

i don't trust those dumb crime shows. :)

does anyone have experience with sending seeds internationally? They aren't illegal in canada, are they?
posted by nitor at 9:50 AM on July 26, 2009


IANAL, but it almost certainly IS a federal crime in Amersterdam as well.
posted by meta_eli at 9:52 AM on July 26, 2009


oh, and the odds are that they'll just find it, keep it, and send a really scary letter to the recipient.
posted by meta_eli at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2009


I had a friend (not me) who did this for several years, from and to Canada. She never got in trouble, but they examine international shipments a lot more carefully.
posted by jeather at 10:00 AM on July 26, 2009


Mailing internationally involves more paperwork than just the return address. Sure, you could probably put a few seeds into an envelope with a letter and declare the contents as a document, but then you have to remember that Canada doesn't accept international mail w/o a return address.
posted by birdherder at 10:03 AM on July 26, 2009


If it were just seeds I wouldn't worry about it at all. Just put them in some kind of box, like with chocolates or watercolour paints. Same with a half ounce or less of weed, except wrap it up *really* well so there's no smell.
For something like this, in Canada especially, I'm pretty sure even if somehow 'they' did find it, it would just be confiscated. I doubt that the RCMP would care enough to pursue such a minor infraction.
posted by Flashman at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2009


birdherder writes "Canada doesn't accept international mail w/o a return address."

One of those completely useless requirements unless the sending country requires ID to mail a letter internationally.
posted by Mitheral at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2009


I think the probability of anything happening is so close to zero to be laughable. Here's what would have to happen:

1. The illegal things would have to be found
2. Someone would have to care enough to try and find who sent them (This is where everything falls apart - who the hell is going to care enough to try and find the sender if you're talking about a bunch of seeds?)
3. The someone would have to have the resources to search for the sender and be willing to expend those resources. (Again, a total collapse of premise - there aren't enough resources in any agency to go towards this kind of crap).
4. They'd have to find the sender based only on a postmark (Or they could really go crazy and bring the recipient in for questioning and get your name out of them and come and get you in the middle of the night. Not.)

Realistically the possible consequences to you are none.

I say party on. But don't call me when the international team of super agents tracks down your DNA through the stamps you licked and brings you to lockup for eight hours of questioning about ten seeds.
posted by orsonet at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Um, as for the return address requirement, he could fake one. Just saying.
posted by orsonet at 10:18 AM on July 26, 2009


If you're going to fake a return address, please make sure that it's an address that doesn't exist. You don't want to drag some unsuspecting person into this.
posted by corey flood at 10:22 AM on July 26, 2009


Yes, the recipient could catch shit. The recipient could go to jail. Since drugs have value, it is reasonably assumed that drug dealers don't just gratuitously mail drugs to people who haven't paid for them.
posted by jayder at 10:25 AM on July 26, 2009


I think the probability of anything happening is so close to zero to be laughable. Here's what would have to happen ...

Orsonet's line of reasoning is very amusing, because it neglects the fact that, when you are contemplating a criminal action, anything you are counting on to conceal the criminal action is something that law enforcement has already seen a million times, they can sniff it out in a heartbeat, and you're not nearly as clever as you think you are. Everyone else who gets caught thought they were being clever, too.

Summarized, the principle is this: When you're planning a crime, always assume law enforcement is a whole lot smarter than you.
posted by jayder at 10:29 AM on July 26, 2009


Drug dealing conspiracies take advantage of the mails in this way. It has been done with heroin, certainly. I know that because the people who did it get caught and prosecuted.
posted by prefpara at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a joke a friend of mine attempted to mail Psilocybin mushrooms in the post to the UK. The recipient, a certain Mrs. Magic, received a letter from the relevant authorities informing her that, should she wish to claim her mushrooms, they would arrange for her to be charged with receiving controlled substances forthwith.

The moral of the story is this, on the one hand you probably won't get in trouble, but on the other hand you will waste your time and money. It then depends how much you desire a letter from the police addressed to Mrs Magic, regarding her Psilocybin mushrooms - my friend thought it was hilarious.
posted by munchbunch at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


If customs catches it, the receiver will most likely get a love letter and there's a possibility that the address/recipient may be watched in the future depending on the substance and the quantity. The sender would be pretty safe but if you give them reason to trace you, there's a lot that can be done.

Try not to post from The Netherlands if possible - catch a train east to send and it will be less likely to get intercepted.

corey flood: "If you're going to fake a return address, please make sure that it's an address that doesn't exist. You don't want to drag some unsuspecting person into this."

Bad idea. A common red flag used by postal services is non-existent return addresses. This will cause your package to receive more scrutiny. Similarly, return addresses that don't match the sending district are suspicious.

Flashman: "If it were just seeds I wouldn't worry about it at all. Just put them in some kind of box, like with chocolates or watercolour paints. Same with a half ounce or less of weed, except wrap it up *really* well so there's no smell."

If it smells, you need to flatten and double vacuum seal at a minimum. Do not use a box for seeds, just wedge them between flat cardboard and make it look like a letter not a package.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:05 AM on July 26, 2009


Even when a drug is somewhat decriminalised in the destination country, importing it may still be a criminal offence.

Remember that many countries - including my own - have incredibly strict laws about bringing plant matter of any kind into the country from overseas. There's a possibility that the recipient would be busted not because the shipment is drugs, but because it contains plant matter - which would then be identified as drugs and a separate penalty may apply for that.
posted by Lolie at 11:28 AM on July 26, 2009


As a joke a friend of mine attempted to mail Psilocybin mushrooms in the post to the UK.

I'm aware of a few individuals who did this seriously a number of times (from Canada), over a period of a few years. As it was told to me, the scheme was simple:

1. send shrooms in block of home made chocolate
2. accompanying stuff in package presents it a birthday gift for Uncle Jim (or whoever)
3. fake return address on package
4. correct address on package (but wrong name; Uncle Jim again)
5. recipients don't open package for at least ten days after its arrival, playing along that it's just a misaddressed package; so, should there be a bust, it would just be sitting there on the mantelpiece (or wherever), untouched, and the recipients would just say, "Oh, that package? That's not even ours. We just haven't gotten around to alerting the postman."
6. after ten days, package is opened, recipients and their friends have fun

For the record, they never had even the most remote of hassles from the authorities ... which segues into a response to:

If you think they can't find the sender from the evidence left on the package, just watch a few episodes of any of the major crime shows out there right now.

This is pretty paranoid (ie: irrational) thinking unless you're involved in some pretty BIG DEAL import/export (in other words, already targeted by the authorities).
posted by philip-random at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know a drug dealer who stuck his weed in canisters and placed it in a jar of peanut butter before mailing it home.
posted by anonymuk at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2009


Here is the key:

If Customs officials wish to open a piece of mail weighing less than 30 grams, they send a letter to the addressee requesting consent. If consent is not received, the piece of mail is either returned to sender or destroyed, or a search warrant is obtained.
posted by gman at 12:41 PM on July 26, 2009


Oh, and yes that's an immigration article, but it applies to all mail. Info begins in the eighth paragraph. A search warrant isn't going to be obtained for small amounts of barely illegal anything. It's not worth their while.
posted by gman at 12:48 PM on July 26, 2009


Once when I was in another country I had a friend send me a laptop that I wanted. Since it was allergy season I had him throw a 10-pack of Claritin D in the box.

I didn't know that psuedoephenedrine was a controlled substance in this country. (Which is the D in Claritin D)

They caught those ten pills on x-ray and held the package at customs. Yes, they caught 10 pills in a box with a giant laptop, power supply, etc. They sent me a nastygram explaining the situation and I had to fax them a signed form giving them permission to open the box and incinerate the Claritin. Which they did and then forwarded the remains of the package to me.

There was no legal problems for it, but then again it was cold medicine, not pot, which can get the death penalty.

This was Japan, YMMV.
posted by Ookseer at 1:00 PM on July 26, 2009


I am not going to get involved in the mailing-contraband question, because it seems like a Bad Idea, but did want to weigh in on one technical point:
A common red flag used by postal services is non-existent return addresses. This will cause your package to receive more scrutiny. Similarly, return addresses that don't match the sending district are suspicious.
I do not buy this.

There's no automatic checking or validation of return addresses, at least on mail sent via the USPS, and the USPS has a fairly sophisticated operation in this regard. It would require a phenomenal amount of effort to do this as a matter of course to all mail, even if you just wanted to check the ZIP of the return address against the place the piece is being sent from. It's hard enough to read and validate the recipient addresses, which is necessary to send the piece at all; return addresses would be harder owing to generally sloppy formatting, minuscule type, inconsistent placement, low-contrast labels, etc.

Plus, not all USPS mail is required to have a return address; only certain types are. You can see the specific list in DMM 602 1.5.3. Some other countries may have more stringent requirements, but I find it extremely hard to believe that any would go to the work of actually looking at and checking each mailpiece's return address.

Someone may check and discover that a RA is fake if they're investigating a package or letter that is for some other reason suspicious, but I can't think of any common scenario (aside from the obvious, where a letter or package is undeliverable) where a plausible-but-fake RA would be noticed during the course of delivery in a modern postal system. The return address just isn't given that much attention unless it's needed.

All that said, I still think that sending contraband of any sort through the mail is a Bad Idea; I'm sure it's been done before, and I'm sure law enforcement and Customs are well aware of it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2009


A common red flag used by postal services is non-existent return addresses.

This is easily overcome by making sure that the return address is entirely legit. Right name, right address, right district. Just not your own. Should there be an honest mail screw-up and the package gets returned, it just becomes a mysterious moment in some innocent person's life that may or may not involve a visit from some law enforcement types (which creates its own weird possibilities, of course).
posted by philip-random at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2009


I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet: As far as marijuana seeds, there is no reason to mailing them from Amsterdam. Just order them from Canada.

There are so many reputable, long-standing seed banks in Canada that you will have no problem.
posted by Mike Mongo at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2009


IANAL, but it almost certainly IS a federal crime in Amersterdam as well.

I doubt this, considering the fact that The Netherlands is not a federation, but a monarchy.
posted by HFSH at 1:34 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh btw, I used to work—under the nom de plume Marc Mongo—with Marc Emery and Cannabis Culture Magazine, as the magazine's celebrity liason and entertainment correspondent. I scored (ahem) the Spider Robinson interview where the renowned science-fiction author of the Callahan's Cross-time Saloon series openly discussed his marijuana use and appreciation, as well set up the Michael Franti interview which resulted in a full-size pull-out poster. Good times. Grew up since then, and stopped smoking while working at the magazine. Nonetheless, I fully support marijuana legalization.

BTW, Marc Emery is now headed to US prison for five years for shipping seeds from Canada to the US. Of course, you would not believe the volume of shipments we are talking about here. Still, worth noting.
posted by Mike Mongo at 1:49 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow that's harsh. I know Marc from when he owned City Lights Books in London, Ont. Best of luck to him.
posted by Flashman at 2:14 PM on July 26, 2009


If they really wanted to be jerks, they have done this: put a police officer into a delivery person's uniform, ring your bell, hand you the package, and promptly arrest you for receiving illegal drugs. While I'm sure it's a valid defense in court that you had no idea what's in the package, it's a giant hassle.
posted by gjc at 3:18 PM on July 26, 2009


It could be worse... they could do everything gjc describes as well as shooting your dog, despite the fact that you're the mayor.
posted by onshi at 3:28 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding onshi.
posted by acro at 3:54 PM on July 26, 2009


1. The illegal things would have to be found

Those sniffer dogs they have hanging around customs all the time are really pretty good, I imagine.
posted by txvtchick at 4:33 PM on July 26, 2009


One experience with a mechanical filter, many years ago, when a tourist mailed a trivial amount of seeds in a letter from Amsterdam: the letter arrived, but had been flattened such that all the seeds within had been crushed.
posted by Rash at 7:28 PM on July 26, 2009


Orsonet's line of reasoning is very amusing, because it neglects the fact that, when you are contemplating a criminal action, anything you are counting on to conceal the criminal action is something that law enforcement has already seen a million times, they can sniff it out in a heartbeat, and you're not nearly as clever as you think you are.

For this to apply to the question at hand, one has to assume that law enforcement cares enough about stopping the crime to expend the resources to do so. Just because the government could use real-time satellite imaging technology to catch jaywalkers doesn't mean they ever would, and I think they're equally unlikely to track anyone down CSI-style over a miniscule quantity of weed.

In my layman's opinion, in many situations the only means law enforcement has for preventing people from transporting very small quantities of drugs is to make them so paranoid that they throw the drugs away themselves.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:11 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a friend who went to jail for receiving a package of meth and prescription drugs. So people do get caught and arrested for it. I'd think most of the immediate risk is at the receiving end, but the police are going to be very interested in the sender, particularly if the shipment was part of a larger operation. Unless the person you're sending it to is a very, very good friend, or very scared of you, I'd expect him to turn you in.
posted by empath at 9:53 PM on July 26, 2009


1. Tell your dutch friend to go to the local lolly store "Jammin" ... where they will allow you to full a tin can with lollies, which they weigh an charge you for, and then they SEAL THE CAN with a lolly wrapper on it ... well ... you can work the rest out.

2 ?????

3 PROFIT
posted by jannw at 12:45 AM on July 27, 2009


I know exactly what happens when packages get stopped in customs in the UK - you get your package or letter or whatever, but with the fun contents removed. In its place will be a note saying that "contraband was confiscated. If you wish to claim it, come to the customs authority in London, but note that we may pursue legal action if you choose to do this".

I've had mates post me hash from Amsterdam, which has never been stopped in customs. One of my mates posted himself an empty envelope containing nothing other than two or three baggies of weed, which did get stopped in the aforementioned manner in customs.

The wonderful thing is that nobody has done anything illegal if they catch it - it's not illegal in the Netherlands, and you haven't committed possession in the UK, unless you go try and claim it, so you just lose your weed and that's it. No such charge as attempted possession, and no way to prove that you knew or was involved with the weed's being posted to you.

Obviously, return addresses are a stupid idea, and a fake name at the correct address is probably good, sensible precaution.
posted by Dysk at 7:54 AM on July 27, 2009


Bob Denver (aka Gilligan) was famously arrested for receiving 2 ounces of marijuana via Federal Express. Even sending seeds to someone in the mail could potentially expose the recipient to direct prosecution or cause authorities to start investigating them as a likely illegal grower and dealer. Nobody is going to possibly be able to give you any sort of real answer about "how likely" it would be. It is unquestionably a non-zero risk.

Seeds are not really legal in Canada and the authorities have been cracking down on them for several years now.
posted by nanojath at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2009


Marijuana is "not really legal" in Canada but Vancouver isn't called Vansterdam for nothing.

The difference being that while marijuana is "not really legal" in Canada, it is REALLY NOT LEGAL in the United States.
posted by Mike Mongo at 5:30 PM on July 27, 2009


If you were going to mail drugs, wouldn't you just mail letters written on letter-sized sheets of blotter acid? (Something that looks like artsy homemade paper? Christmas card? Or do something else innocuous-looking with the paper as packaging or filler?)

In the letter, mention that it contains a mind-bending puzzle that the recipient will never wrap his head around -- try to make it look as though the recipient had no idea who really sent it or what was in it. Just in case someone catches on.

Then the recipient, eventually, when things look safe, divides it up into blocks and slowly works through the letter, block by block...

Nah. This must have been done. The Post Office has a flock of sniffer Owsley Owls checking everything, right?
posted by pracowity at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2009


Really, the important thing to bear in mind here is that the postal service is probably not too fussed, really. They've got common carrier status (in most countries) and so have no self-serving interest in checking whether or not they're carrying drugs. Some individuals within the postal service, sure, and customs, of course. Mind you, customs tends to concern themselves with packages and parcels, and most drugs can be posted in sufficiently small quantities that a letter with a card in it is all that is needed.

In the 'third-hand anecdotes' category, I've heard of people using some of the clandestine mail-order marijuana services of yesteryear (BudMail) being asked to "sign for [their] pot" by the postman.
posted by Dysk at 9:06 PM on July 28, 2009


Whatever names and addresses you decide to go with - make sure it's all done in your handwriting...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 6:26 PM on July 30, 2009


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