How (And How Not) to Ship Hemp

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labels being added to paper bags

Preparing hemp samples to send for lab analysis.

12/19/2019 – If you have a reason to ship hemp or hemp products, please read this post! I run a hemp research program here at NC State University. My employees, graduate students, and I have studies on research stations and farms in the western half of the state. We send hemp samples from our research studies to laboratories across the country. About a month ago we “did our homework” on shipping hemp samples and learned that we should only ship hemp through the United States Postal Service (USPS). All my employees knew this but I failed to tell my graduate students and one of them recently shipped some samples to a lab using a private carrier.

So, this morning I received a phone call from a sheriff who had been called to a United Parcel Service (UPS) facility because a package smelled like marijuana. He opened and inspected the package and determined that it was legal hemp with proper documentation and that he would allow the package to continue on to its destination. But he took the opportunity to call me and provide me with some important information that he wanted me to pass on (as I am doing here) to prevent others from having a less favorable outcome. He was really nice and very helpful!

Here is what I learned:

1. Presently, if you are going to ship packages of hemp or hemp products, use the USPS rather than a private carrier. On June 6, 2019, the USPS adopted a new mailability policy for cannabis and hemp-derived products. If you have to ship truckloads of product, that’s a subject for a different post.

2. If the hemp you are going to ship has any odor to it at all (so just about anything that is not in a sealed bottle) package it in an airtight container. He suggested using vacuum packaging, air-tight sealed plastic containers (like Rubbermaid), glass jars, or multiple layers of heavy-duty ziplock bags.

3. Do not try to hide the odor with coffee grounds, dryer sheets, and the like. That just raises suspicion! But you do want to “squash the odor”. So air-tight containers, plastic bags, multiple layers of bubble wrap, and sturdy boxes are in order.

4. Include all the proper documentation in the package: A copy of your grower license and/or processor registration form. Any evidence that the hemp is 0.3% THC or less, such as a copy of your official test report from the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (from your field test) or a copy of your certificate of analysis from a commercial lab.

5. Include your phone number so if there is any question about your shipment, you can be reached. A cover letter or just a short statement about what the product is and what it is being shipped for is also a good idea. For example, “these are hemp samples being sent to a laboratory for analysis” or “these are hemp products being sent to a customer.” A packing slip with your business name, the customer’s name, and a description of the product could be helpful.

6. USPS regulations require you to keep copies of these records for at least two years. So photocopy all that paperwork before you ship and file it.

7. USPS does not require you to show these documents when you ship your package but if there is any question about the package, they can be requested then or later. So you might want to bring those photocopies that you are going to file with you to the post office so you don’t have to open the package if there are any questions.

8. It is not required, but we tell the employee accepting the package at the post office what is contained inside.

9. And just so we are clear, here is the text directly from USPS Publication 52: Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail, section 453.37: “Hemp and hemp-based products, including cannabidiol (CBD) with the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of such hemp (or its derivatives) not exceeding a 0.3 per-cent limit are permitted to be mailed only when: The mailer complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws (such as the Agricultural Act of 2014 and the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018) pertaining to hemp production, processing, distribution, and sales; and b. The mailer retains records establishing compliance with such laws, including laboratory test results, licenses, or compliance reports, for no less than 2 years after the date of mailing.”