DEA Cracks Down on Shipping Companies for Drug Shipments

FedEx is attempting to quell concerns about federal agents rifling through the contents of customer packages, as word has gotten out that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is now targeting shipping chains for illegal drug shipments.
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Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand it’s part of an effort to crack down on the prescription drug transactions of pills.

It’s worth noting that while there is no specific mention of marijuana shipments, news reports indicate that there has been a 400 percent increase in shipments of marijuana through the U.S. Postal Service since just 2007. An estimated 75 percent of marijuana seized by the Post Office originated from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

In 2009, there were nearly 1,300 people arrested in the U.S. for attempting to transport drugs via mail.

Recently, Florida’s Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported that both FedEx and UPS had revealed in corporate filings that their operations had been targeted by DEA investigations into packages of prescription pills that were shipped from online pharmacies.

These kinds of transactions are illegal in cases where there is no legitimate doctor-patient relationship. The DEA, dubbing these physicians “cyber doctors” may have legitimate medical degrees, but are relying on Internet questionnaires, as opposed to face-to-face meetings with patients. Federal agents say this is a clear violation of the law.

In a recent statement to the media, the DEA reported that UPS had agreed to forfeit roughly $40 million that it had collected in shipping fees from online pharmacies. Further, it has conceded to enter into a compliance program, the goal of which is to make it impossible for online pharmacies to use its services.

In exchange, the DEA has said it won’t prosecute UPS, even though the DEA says that between 2003 and 2010, UPS knowingly shipped hundreds of thousands of packages containing illegal drugs. It is alleged that UPS was informed by employees of what was going on, and yet failed to take any significant action to address it.

While UPS bowed to DEA pressure in this regard, FedEx has called the crackdown “disturbing” and “absurd.” The company says that to implement the kind of measures that the DEA is suggesting would result in an infringement on consumer privacy.

As one FedEx official was quoted as saying, this is a transportation company – not a law enforcement agency, nor are they doctors or pharmacists. Who are they to ascertain which shipments of medications are legal and which are not?

The company says that while it will assist and cooperate with law enforcement, it has not intentions of “doing their job for them.”

Prosecuting shippers, the company spokesman said, detracts from the DEA’s mission of halting online pharmacies and illegal dispensaries.

DEA inspectors offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals illegally shipping substances through the mail.

While our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers certainly understand how some patients may find such services convenient, we would generally advise against it for dispensaries at this time, given the current climate with the DEA. Door-to-door delivery services may be a better alternative. Consult with an experienced attorney to learn more about your options.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
DEA Targets FedEx, UPS in Online Pharmacy Battle, March 30, 2013, By Phillip Smith, The Daily Chronic
More Blog Entries:
Marijuana Legislation in the States: An Update, Part 1, April 1, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog