Mail order marijuana a challenging problem: police
Police say investigators have few options to deal with marijuana purchased online, delivered by mail
Enter the words "mail order marijuana" into Google and you'll find plenty of websites illegally offering marijuana for sale — and offering to ship it straight to you through Canada Post.
Typically, dealers collect payment online, process the order form, and ship the drugs to an address provided by the buyer.
University of Manitoba criminology and sociology professor Frank Cormier says that's a sign of the times.
"It really does look like an awfully bold move to so openly and blatantly offer to commit a criminal offence," he said.
But with the federal government promising to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Cormier says sellers and users may feel the risk of running into trouble with the law is lower.
"The whole climate around the use and sale of marijuana is really changing," he said.
And it can be difficult for police to seize illegal drugs in the mail system. The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs says the Canada Post Corporation Act prevents them from obtaining warrants to seize mail, except in rare cases where there's a national security risk.
Greg Preston, co-chair of the law amendments committee of the CAPC and superintendent of the Edmonton Police Service, says illegal marijuana shipments through the mail are a problem, and not uncommon.
"The whole climate around the use and sale of marijuana is really changing," - Frank Cormier, Univerity of Manitoba
Preston says police can get warrants to seize mail and packages once they're delivered.
But he says that often requires the cooperation of multiple jurisdictions. This summer, the CAPC passed a resolution to ask the federal government to loosen the rules around searching mail still in transit.
Preston says Canada Post employees will contact police if they discover a suspicious package. But when it comes to ordinary mail and small packages, the Crown corporation doesn't try to detect contraband.
"They are not an enforcement body," Preston said. "Their job is to deliver packages."
Canada Post provides instructions on marijuana shipping
And Canada Post may, however inadvertently, be helping some dealers figure out how to effectively send marijuana by mail.
That's because authorized distributors of medical marijuana are allowed to ship through the mail. And Canada Post offers explicit instructions on how to do that.
It says, for example, that marijuana must be sealed in such a way that the product can't be smelled, and the package can't be labeled in any way that would indicate what's inside.
The intent is to reduce the chance of theft within the mail system. But the guidelines effectively offer tips on how to ship illegal marijuana as well.
And illegal marijuana sellers aren't the only ones who have tested the limits of sending pot by mail.
Last week, marijuana legalization advocate Dana Larsen sent a "sample" to every Liberal member of Parliament. He said his goal was to "refamiliarize" the MPs with the substance's "pleasant effects," and remind them to keep their election promises.
In a statement to Radio-Canada, Larsen said "I do not expect to hear from the police over this."