Shipping cannabis from one legal state to another legal state. Ok, right?
Wrong. Don’t do it.
As a cannabis lawyer I have heard, over and over, people tell me that it’s ok to ship or take cannabis from one state where it’s legal (say, Washington) to another state where it’s legal (say, Colorado). The idea makes some logical sense. You take pot from one state where you’re approved to have it, put it on a plane, and ship or deliver it to another state where it’s ok to have it. I’ve even heard people insist that the plane’s high altitude as it passes over non-legal states means that the laws in the states over which it passes don’t apply. This seems to make some sense, too.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is the Feds. Under Federal law, cannabis is a Schedule I drug along with heroin, LSD, mescaline, ecstasy, and even bath salts. This is the highest level of prohibition because, according to the Federal government, the drugs in Schedule I have a “high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision.” Ridiculous, right? Yes. But there cannabis sits, illegal, right there on Schedule I next to these other drugs, some of which are terribly insidious.
Cannabis is illegal under Federal law. And, importantly, it remains illegal under Federal law even in states where it has been legalized. Pretend that the United States government is your parents. Your Dad says, “pot is ok with me.” But your Mother says, “No way.” So, under that scenario, is pot ok in your house? The answer is “sort of.” It means that, if your Dad catches you smoking pot you’re not going to get into trouble. But if your Mom catches you…. you’re grounded.
A similar dynamic is currently going on in the US. Except that, in this case, your “Mom” is the US Government. And, importantly, she rules the roost. She’s the final arbiter of what’s right and what’s wrong, even if your Dad says it’s ok. And she says, “So long as you use pot in your bedroom, and don’t take it into your brother’s room, I won’t punish you.” She doesn’t say that it’s ok. She says that you can use it in your bedroom. So, if you take it to your brother’s bedroom you’re in trouble. Interestingly, in keeping with our analogy, she says the exact same thing to your brother: “So long as you use pot in your bedroom, and don’t take it into your sister’s room, I won’t punish you.” Strange, right? Yes. But that’s the rule.
The US Justice Department issued a memo called the Cole memo stating that, although cannabis remains illegal under Federal law, it won’t use its limited resources to crack down on marijuana users so long as they didn’t trigger certain “enforcement priorities.” In other words, so long as pot users stay out of the Fed’s way, they’re ok. The Cole memo set out several priorities, one of which was: “Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states.” Period. It didn’t qualify the statement with, “To states where it is illegal.” It said, “to other states.” For this reason, the Feds will prosecute you if you try to ship or deliver cannabis from Colorado to Washington. Period.
So don’t do it.