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Marijuana by mail on the rise in Austin

It's a federal crime to mail marijuana. In 2014, the United States Post Office seized 40,000 pounds of mailed marijuana -- but experts say plenty goes unnoticed. (KEYE TV)

As marijuana becomes legal in more states, more of the herb is being shipped to Texas. During large Austin events, postal inspectors say pot laden packages are more common.

When shipped via the United States Postal Service, mailing marijuana is a federal crime.

In 2014, about 40,000 pounds of mailed marijuana was seized, but experts say plenty goes unnoticed. "(When using USPS,) it usually gets there and it's really dependable, and the drug dealers realize that," said Postal Inspector Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan says there has been an uptick in packages containing pot coming from places like Colorado and California.

A man who wished to remain anonymous told us he's shipped pot by mail several times. Usually, it's when his local supply runs out. "There might be a mass drug bust and that might throw a kink in things," said the pot smoker.

He says as states legalize the drug, it's becoming easier to ship. Still, it is a risk. "There's not one time when I am not nervous about it," said the anonymous pot smoker.

He's never been caught, but others have. "A lot of them come through tips," said Sullivan. "A lot of it is just pure experience"

Sullivan wouldn't go into details about how they find and track packaged pot, but say senders get creative. "They do, I think, pray upon our college students," said Sullivan.

Sullivan says some wishing to ship the herb are paying people who could use a quick buck to accept the package. "(Dealers will) meet them in clubs, bars, what have you, and say, 'hey, I've got a business going. I don't have a physical addresses yet, can you catch this package until I get back in town?'"

Sullivan says dealers have paid up to $400 to 'catch' a pot filled package.

Sullivan busted a few girls who accepted a package with marijuana inside. They claimed the pot was not theirs and they accepted it for someone else. "The girls were very adamant that they could trust this man," said Sullivan. "They said he is a super guy who had a nice car, had nice shoes and they felt they could trust him to the nth degree. He would never do that to them."

Sullivan said other dealers are targeting the elderly. "We have a number of narcotics going to little senior citizens homes and the dealer seeks to grab it off the front porch before the resident sees it there," he said.

In fact, Sullivan says dealers will send packages to any address they think they can without getting caught.

A report released last year by The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area states the amount of intercepted mail containing Colorado pot destined for other states increased about 2,000 percent from 2010 to 2014.

That fact did not surprise Austin criminal defense attorney Jamie Spencer. "I definitely hear it more often than I did," said Spencer, who also acts as legal counsel for Texas Norml.

Spencer has represented multiple clients with drug charges. He claims it is difficult for prosecutors to convict his clients. "Even if it is a person who is mailing it to themselves, it's usually difficult for the postal service to prove who it is that mailed it in the first place," said Spencer.

By law, Spencer says, USPS can't go through your mail without a warrant. That is another reason pot smokers says they use USPS, rather than FedEx or another carrier.

Pot smokers told KEYE, the packaging is extremely important when shipping pot. Often times, they will stuff the marijuana in an aluminum can, then wrap it in several layers of plastic. The biggest challenge is containing the smell.

But while Sullivan says the creative cannabis users continue to find new ways to ship pot across state lines, he says law enforcement is getting smarter too.

"We will seize it every change we get," said Sullivan. "How much do you want to gamble?"


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