Earlier this week, the United States Postal Service (USPS) finalized a rule that would ban shipping and delivering vaping products through the US mail. The new rule applies to both nicotine and cannabis products and is now in full effect. Here’s what you need to know to navigate these new laws.
The USPS vape mail ban is now in effect. It prevents both the cannabis and nicotine industries from shipping vaping products through the US mail. Businesses can no longer ship vaping products directly to consumers.
Individuals can still ship small quantities of these products, but no more than 10 packages weighing less than 10 ounces per month. Money also can’t also trade hands in this exception.
Vapes can still be shipped within the states of Alaska and Hawaii
Businesses can still send vapes through the mail for testing and public health purposes.
Freight companies can still ship vapes but have weight minimums which make shipping small orders impossible
Businesses can ship vapes B2B or to government agencies once they go through a rigid verification process and pay a fee, though time will tell how much bandwidth the department has for approving a large influx of applications at the same time.
Many companies may have to turn to privatized delivery services to get around this mail ban.
Why did this happen?
Last December, President Trump passed a bill that created a loophole in the current law that allowed minors to access and purchase electronic cigarettes and vapes through the internet without an age verification. The rule the USPS just finalized was required when the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act (POSECCA) passed in December called for closing this loophole. The rule was under review in April. After careful consideration, it is now in effect
What is illegal in the USPS Vape Mail ban
POSECCA forced the USPS to ban the shipping of vaping products through the US Mail. Due to the verbiage in the original bill and despite a lot of pushback from cannabis industry stakeholders, the USPS vape mail ban extends to products that are intended for both nicotine and cannabis products.
Under the new laws, the USPS can’t deliver electronic devices that deliver nicotine, flavor, or any other substance to the user through an aerosolized solution. They also can’t deliver vape parts, e-liquids, or vaping accessories even when they’re sold separately from the devices. Tha includes vapes that will ultimately become used for cannabis oils as well as their components and parts. The same goes for nicotine, including e-juice— synthetic or not.
Dry herb vaporizers intended for vaping cannabis flowers are also illegal under separate rules. With the federal scheduling of cannabis, dry herb vapes are considered drug paraphernalia for use with controlled substances and are also unmailable.
Heated tobacco products, like IQOS, the tobacco equivalent of a dry herb vape, may be exempt from the mail ban right now. However, the refills qualify as cigarettes under the PACT Act making them illegal as well.
Exceptions in the USPS Vape Mail ban
While this is a massive ban that affects a lot of different industries and businesses, the new rule does have a few exemptions. For example, private citizens can ship these products to each other, but no more than 10 packages per month with each package weighing less than 10 ounces. However, they’ll have to use the USPS’ specified services and require an adult signature upon delivery. Consumers can also send damaged or unacceptable products back to a manufacturer or seller legally.
Exemptions are also available for certain B2B businesses, though there’s a lot of red tape imposed by POSECCA and the PACT act. To ship vape products through the USPS, companies must first be approved through a rigorous application process. Hundreds of vape businesses will apply for B2B exemption, but there’s no way to tell how long it will take for companies to be approved for compliance. Many b2b businesses in the vape industry may instead have to personally deliver outgoing packages, which simply isn’t practical. Creating private shipping networks may be the best way to move forward in the meantime.
Lastly, consumers in Alaska and Hawaii can still send and receive these packages as normal within the borders of their own states. However, there is no exception for mail shipped to or from overseas addresses. Military or foreign service workers sending and receiving mail through the Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO), or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) can still get in trouble for sending banned products this way.
The PACT act and private deliveries
While POSECCA required the USPS to make new regulations for mailing vapes, it also forced all vape products into the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act. These laws were originally introduced to prevent delivering cigarettes through US mail to combat tax avoidance by online and mail-order sellers.
The PACT Act is full of strict rules on all vaping products, regardless of which mail delivery service is used. It’s managed by the ATF, and violating it can bring harsh penalties including huge fines and prison sentences.
Under the PACT Act, sellers must
Verify customer ages using a commercial database
Use private shipping services and require an adult signature upon delivery
Register with the US Attorney General and the ATF
Register with state tax authorities in all states and localities where they send their products
Collect and pay taxes and affix tax stamps to their products
Send a list of transactions to the tax authorities every month, including the names and addresses of each customer, the amount they bought and what they bought, and the contact information for the delivery person in charge of the shipment.
After POSECCA passed, FedEx and UPS announced that they also wouldn’t ship vaping products to avoid PACT Act violations. DHL already doesn’t work with vape companies. While each one has a few exceptions, the majority can’t be relied upon for many online vape retailers.
Since the Vape Mail Ban has been in the works for a while now, a few private delivery services have sprung up to capture some of this market with no other way to deliver their products. However, there are lots of logistical issues and dead zones in the country that don't even have access to private delivery options.
Right now, privatized delivery services are going to be the best bet for getting vape products where they need to go. With the red tape surrounding the b2b exemptions under POSECCA and all the time it will take for companies to register and gain approval, we’re entering uncharted territory.
Many private services haven’t been tested yet, so only time will tell. With the vape mail ban prohibiting delivery for almost all of these items, the only way out is to organize private networks of delivery service providers. It may cause delayed shipping times and smaller companies to go belly up as they’ve relied on the leniency of the USPS for so long.