In recent years we have witnessed a phenomenon in the American political landscape of states voting to legalize the use of marijuana in their states, and turn it into a revenue producer. Despite this legalization effort, putting a veil of legality on marijuana use creates a real danger for companies eager to capitalize on the developments.
Several states that have chosen to “legalize” marijuana include much of the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, California, and Oregon. Trucking companies may have had a fleeting thought or two about taking advantage of these developments and engaging in commerce to transport marijuana like they do other products, but that would be a bad idea.
Marijuana Remains Illegal
The trucking and transportation industry is a national industry, regulated (mostly) by federal law, rules, and regulations. And under federal law, no matter what a state chooses to do, marijuana use, possession, and transportation remains illegal. The illegality of marijuana is based in the Controlled Substance Act 21 U.S.C. § 811. That portion of federal law allows the Federal Drug Administration to determine which substances should be controlled, thereby outlawing the possession of “controlled substances.”
Marijuana, regardless of what the states say, is a controlled substance. As a result, it remains illegal to possess, grow, transport, and sell marijuana. But despite this illegality, marijuana business is booming across the country. And trucking and transportation companies may be tempted to participate. That is, as we said earlier, a bad idea.
Penalties to Trucking Companies for Transporting Marijuana
Some may think that it would be alright to transport marijuana from one state that legalized it to another, but this not correct. The very act of transporting a controlled substance across state lines is illegal. For example, a first time offense for trafficking a controlled substance across state lines is up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 to $1 million. As you can see, it is simply not worth the risk.
Another big risk that comes to trucking companies that choose to traffic in controlled substance has to do with the profits that accrue as a result. It is illegal to put proceeds of the sale of controlled substance into federally insured banks, and so banks will not do business with businesses who make money from the booming marijuana industry. In addition to these risks, there is civil liability from third parties under RICO statutes for being involved in illegal schemes.
Your Trucking and Transportation Law Partners
This is another example of why it is so important that your company have a qualified legal team on your side to advise and represent you on the many issues that affect the trucking industry. At Anderson and Yamada we have decades of experience representing trucking and transportation companies of all kinds and at all levels. As you review your company’s legal needs, contact us so we can put our years of experience to work for you.