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Why You Should Never Buy Weed Online

Friday December 2, 2016

Updated on 2/10/2020

W e’ll admit it, it’s pretty awesome living in a place where you can not only buy weed legally, but where you have the option to choose from a selection of strains, concentrates, edibles and topicals as if it were a mere trip to the gas station. And yes, we completely understand how hard it must be to live in a place where marijuana is still illegal while watching neighboring states indulge freely. We get it. It sucks.

NOTE: Since the publishing of this article, cannabis delivery services in America and legalized nations like Canada have made buying marijuana online possible and legal. There are still illegal cannabis shops online though, so do your due diligence before buying.

And while many people in prohibition states may ponder the idea of a little mail-order ganja goodie bag from one of the countless online dealers, we strongly advise against it. Not that you shouldn’t enjoy a good toke, but these “businesses” are not the way to do it. Most of them are scammers and the ones who are not, well, they’re not exactly safe either.

How Online Marijuana Sale Scams Work

We’ve all seen them: the social media posts offering to ship top-quality marijuana anywhere in the world for seemingly affordable prices. They may list their menu and provide a phone number through which to place your orders. Though many of us would find these posts shady and scroll past, every now and then, someone takes the bait.

Using a burner app that lets the user create temporary phone numbers (which can be “burned” as soon as they’re no longer needed) online “dealers” will send text messages, nug photos and send/receive phone calls to answer questions and provide purchase instructions. Once a deal has been reached and the buyer has deposited money into the seller’s account, communication is lost and the weed (if there ever was any) never gets sent.

Of course, not all online marijuana sales are scams. Sometimes, people in prohibition states have connections in 420-friendly states and hit friends up for a little mail-order party package. But, regardless of any monetary exchange, shipping marijuana through the mail, even small amounts, is still a big no-no due to marijuana’s illegal federal status. As soon as marijuana crosses state lines, it becomes a federal offense and could be subject to severe penalties.

In fact, according to one Fed Ex worker, the pot — and all parties involved — could end up being held in police custody for aiding in the transfer of an illegal substance.

How Cops Bust Postal Pot

When packages are shipped through Fed Ex or UPS, they no longer hold the same promise of privacy thanks to the fourth amendment of the Constitution. According to the amendment, once a third party takes possession of a package, it is no longer protected against privacy infringement and can therefore be searched.

Even USPS, a government-funded facility which requires all employees to possess a search warrant to rifle through someone else’s package, has ways of busting people for the illegal shipment of marijuana. According to the Leaf Online, when a package is suspected of holding drugs, employees will notify local law enforcement who will then dress as postal workers, deliver the package, then nab the recipient as soon as the package is accepted. Penalties for shipping or receiving marijuana in the mail include jail time and hefty fines; penalties increase drastically as the weight and number of transactions rises.

Shipping a stash is risky for all parties. Photo credit

The Better Way to Get Marijuana in Your Hands

Ten years ago, people would never have imagined that they would be able to live in a place where marijuana is legal. Today, more people than ever are making their mark in the ever-expanding cannabis industry. But the right for people to consume cannabis and make a career out of it did not come by idly waiting in the shadows for a sack of weed to arrive; it happened because thousands of people stood up for reform, and because thousands more continue to do so. And it can happen in your state, too.
It is imperative that we vote for candidates who support marijuana reform, and that we support future marijuana initiatives. We are in the wake of change and we control the momentum of the movement. Let your voice be heard and always vote pro-pot. In the meantime, be sure to visit 420-friendly states to show your support for marijuana reform (and to get a nice buzz on, too).

Marijuana legalization correlates directly with an increased rate of package seizures. Of more than 2,500 arrests for illegal package shipment in 2013, almost 70 percent were for marijuana packages – a 20 percent increase since 2012. Though many seem foggy on the legal issues concerning cannabis shipment, the federal government’s stance is clear: once it crosses state lines, it becomes a federal offense punishable by fines and jail time.

Though some online distributors insist they’ve got the system figured out, it’s usually best stick to places where you know it is legal to possess and consume cannabis (and where you know you won’t get ripped off). Fortunately, as more and more states join the pot party, successfully scoring legal weed will be as easy as a simple road trip.

Have you ever (or would you ever) buy marijuana online? Tell us about your experience.

Online shoppers beware! Recreational and legal cannabis are being falsely sold online to unsuspecting cannabis enthusiasts. It's never okay to buy, sell, or ship marijuana, so be careful and only purchase legal cannabis in states where it is allowed.

Pot is legal in Illinois, but don’t pack it for your next airplane ride

Chicago police encourage fliers with weed to deposit it in marijuana amnesty boxes located at security checkpoints in Midway and O’Hare international airports. Courtesy of the Chicago Police Department

A passenger at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 undergoes screening Thursday. Although marijuana is legal in Illinois, cannabis is prohibited under federal law and, if detected, it could result in missing your flight or facing a federal charge. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Passengers at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 prepare for screening Thursday. Although marijuana is legal in Illinois, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Passengers at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 prepare for screening Thursday. Although marijuana is legal in Illinois, cannabis is prohibited under U.S. law and, if detected during screening, it could result in missing your flight or potentially facing a federal charge. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, residents can enjoy the previously forbidden fruit from Cook to Massac counties.

But drive into Kenosha County, Wisconsin, with your legally purchased weed and you’ll be breaking federal and state laws.

As for flying with cannabis products? Don’t do it, experts advise, unless you enjoy delays at U.S. Transportation Security Administration checkpoints that could mean missing a flight.

“There is a misconception that if you can buy the stuff legally — you can take it wherever you go,” DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman said. “That will create some unpleasant surprises, particularly at our airports.”

The year 2020 brings a mishmash of federal, state and local laws regarding cannabis that could make marijuana consumers want to tuck a lawyer into their carry-ons.

“It’s tricky and we need to see how it plays out,” said attorney Kelvin McCabe, a National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Illinois board member.

Here are a few things to know about traveling with recreational marijuana:

• The new law effective Jan. 1 prohibits transporting cannabis or cannabis products outside the state of Illinois.

• It is illegal under federal law to cross the border or arrive at a U.S. port of entry with marijuana in your possession.

• Federally, “marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance,” meaning it’s illegal, a U.S. Department of Justice official said.

But what about domestic flights to another marijuana-friendly state like California or flying intrastate?

That’s a bad plan, experts said, stressing Illinois law bans taking marijuana outside the Prairie State, and that everyone flying on a commercial flight must be checked by federal TSA officers.

TSA screenings are focused on security and detecting potential threats to aircraft and passengers, spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said. “Accordingly, our security officers don’t search for marijuana.”

But possession is illegal under federal law and if TSA workers find your weed, “our officers will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer, who then follow their own procedures,” Koshetz noted.

The Chicago Police Department is encouraging travelers not to bring cannabis or cannabis products through Midway or O’Hare international airports, “as it still remains illegal federally,” Public Relations Coordinator Maggie Huynh said.

Police recommend fliers with marijuana jettison it in cannabis amnesty boxes, located inside the secure area at the end of every TSA checkpoint.

Huynh did note that “our officers are only contacted by TSA when it appears to be a significant amount of cannabis over the legal limit.”

That could mean “the biggest risk is not the arrest, but missing your flight,” said McCabe, assistant public defender in Rock Island County.

Although possession by someone 21 or older is not a crime, and Chicago police can’t make arrests for federal offenses, McCabe advises users not to be guinea pigs during the transition period.

In California, where marijuana has been legal since 2018, Los Angeles Airport Police contacted by TSA officers typically won’t arrest passengers with weed unless it exceeds the limit, an official said. However, airport police have detained fliers at the request of the TSA until federal agents arrive.

Other significant players to be aware of are carriers such as United and American Airlines that forbid marijuana on board.

“Federally, with some few exceptions, marijuana is still illegal,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said. “We follow federal law and do not permit carriage or consumption on our aircraft.”

If you find the rules confusing, DePaul’s Schwieterman empathizes. “Our state deserves a poor grade for its public education efforts surrounding legalization. There has been plenty of hype, but few efforts to explain the legal boundaries.

“Let’s just hope people don’t try to fly with the product to countries where there is zero tolerance. Saying ‘it was an accident,’ won’t cut it.”

Got questions or comments? Send emails to [email protected]

You should know

Curious about what happens to the marijuana folks dump in the amnesty bins?

“The boxes are regularly checked,” Huynh said, though Chicago police could not specify how often and when. “Any time the box is cleared and there are items in the box, officers will create a report, inventory the cannabis or cannabis products and then they will be disposed of similar to how narcotics are disposed of.”

Recreational marijuana may be legal in Illinois, but driving with it to Wisconsin — or flying with it — is not. Here’s what you need to know to stay within the law.