Is it Legal to Ship Cannabis Seeds?

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“Are marijuana seeds legal?” is a common question for those entering or interested in the cannabis industry. More specifically, is it legal to ship cannabis seeds through the mail or through private carriers? Previously, shipping marijuana seeds has been restricted to within the state of their production, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has effectively acknowledged cannabis seeds are generally uncontrolled and, therefore legal, regardless of how much THC might end up being produced if those seeds were to be cultivated. The DEA recently carried out a review of federal statutes and implementing regulations in response to an inquiry from attorney Shane Pennington regarding the legality of cannabis seeds, tissue culture and “other genetic material” containing no more than 0.3 percent THC.

Pennington argued the source of the material doesn’t determine legality, but the material itself, meaning because a cannabis seed itself contains less than 0.3 percent THC, it should be classified as hemp. If seeds are hemp, they are not a controlled substance—and are therefore federally legal.

“When it comes to determining whether a particular cannabis-related substance is federally legal ‘hemp’ or schedule I “marihuana,” it is the substance itself that matters—not its source,” Pennington wrote in a blog post.

Formerly, cannabis seeds were controlled, however, this is no longer the case due to the federal legalization of hemp via the 2018 Farm Bill. In the bill, hemp was omitted from the Controlled Substances Act’s (CSA) definition of marijuana. In doing so, this made all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L. uncontrolled, provided the THC amount does not exceed 0.3 percent. 

“Accordingly, marihuana seed that has a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis meets the definition of ‘hemp’ and thus is not controlled under the CSA,” Terrence L. Boos, chief of DEA’s Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section, wrote in a Jan. 6 letter. “Conversely, marihuana seed having a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis is controlled in schedule I under the CSA as marihuana.”

As hemp and marijuana seeds generally contain nominal THC levels that don’t exceed the legal threshold, the DEA is essentially conceding cannabis seeds are allowed under the law no matter how much THC the resulting plant might produce, as long as the seeds themselves contain less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC. In regards to delta 8 seeds, DEA officials clarified in 2021 to state regulators that delta-8 THC is not a controlled substance under existing statute. It is important to note, however, it remains federally illegal to use cannabis seeds with the intent of growing still-prohibited marijuana. Above all else, this acknowledgment by the DEA is not itself law.

The benefits of removing transportation barriers include expanding the cannabis gene pool, which leads to new flavors and trends, but would also be helpful when studying the effects of various strains on medicinal patients. Thailand recently touted cannabis distribution: the country’s health minister distributed the first 100 seedlings of a planned distribution of one million plants, a day after legalization of cultivation and possession. Officials said the one million plants will be distributed over the next six months as means to increase farmers’ incomes.

If still wondering “are marijuana seeds illegal to ship,” best to keep researching and consider these tips to purchasing cannabis seeds online.

  • Understand the basic options of cannabis seeds. Regular seeds come from one female and one male parent, meaning there is a 50/50 chance the plant will be the feminized version that carries the important cannabinoids. Feminized seeds have no male chromosomes and will generate resinous buds. Auto flowering seeds are best for growing indoors and produce a minimum of two outdoor crops.
  • Due to the newness of this niche in the industry, most seed banks are startups and can be outside the law. Whether intentional or not, check for permitting and history. Your credit card info is at stake.
  • Value knowledge. You may need support for past purchase questions; the best sites provide this service.
  • Consider shipping carefully. All seeds can be affected by heat, moisture and impact. Best to protect your shipment.

CannaCon is the nation’s leading business-to-business cannabis conference with a goal to grow the cannabis industry by educating cannabis business owners on all things related to cannabis and CBD. CannaCon trade shows feature a large exhibition hall with vendors from around the country as well as seminars delivered by industry experts. If you’re looking to buy cannabis seeds or want to find the right equipment for your grow, join us in Detroit in less than a month or at a CannaCon near you!

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