ATLANTA — A Channel 2 Action News Investigation finds that Georgia is one of the top five destinations in the country for pot seized by the Postal Service.
However, the vast majority of those seizures lead to no criminal charges or prosecutions.
Through a federal Freedom of Information Act request, we obtained postal data that shows Georgia addresses are a favorite destination for marijuana in the mail.
The data shows that in 2021, more than 5,500 pounds of marijuana were seized.
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“I would say the majority of it that we seize, percentage-wise, is coming from states like California where it is legal,” said Rick Johnsten, a postal inspector with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Postal inspectors say they confiscate that marijuana, but they rarely charge anyone with a crime.
In an Inspector General report, leadership acknowledges that because these are warrantless seizures, the seizures “are not used as evidence in criminal investigations; however, information about the packages, such as an address, may be used to support new or ongoing criminal investigations.”
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“It’s an identifiable loophole. People who are going to go ahead and ship drugs through the mail know that it’s highly unlikely, unless somebody is going to rat them out, that they are going to get caught,” said criminal defense attorney Jessica Cino.
Cino says any case based on a warrantless mail seizure would be difficult to successfully prosecute.
“There are so many holes. Number one, it would be a warrantless search. What probable cause do you have to open somebody’s mail? and number two, how do you connect it back to my client?,” said Cino.
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Postal inspectors say the priority of the pot seizures is to get the marijuana out of the mail, not to prosecute. They also say their investigative focus is not pot.
“Our priority for our drug investigations are always going to be the harder drugs. Cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, things like that,” said Johnsten.
Postal officials say even though several states have now legalized pot, it’s still against federal law. Shipping those drugs through the mail is also a federal crime.
They say they will continue to monitor and seize those drugs as long as it is still illegal.
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