If the distribution of a controlled substance is unlawful under 21 U.S.C. 801 or any implementing regulation in 21 CFR 1300, then the mailing of the substance is also unlawful under 18 U.S.C. 1716.
Controlled substances and drugs that contain controlled substances are acceptable in the domestic mail only under the following conditions:
- For mailable controlled substances, generally both the mailer and addressee must meet either of the following conditions:
- Be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
- Be exempted from DEA registration, such as military, civil defense, and law enforcement personnel, in performing official duties.
- For prescription medicines containing mailable narcotic drugs (controlled substances), only a pharmacist or medical practitioner, etc., who dispenses the medicine may mail such substances to the patients under their care.
All prescription, nonprescription, and patent medicines and related items, including solicited and unsolicited samples of such items, that are not considered to be controlled substances under 471.1, are permitted to be mailed as follows:
- For prescription medicines containing a nonnarcotic drug(s), only a pharmacist or medical practitioner, etc., who dispenses the medicine may mail such substances to the patients under their care.
- For nonprescription medicines, the mailer must meet all applicable federal, state, or local laws that may apply (such as the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 in 15 U.S.C. 1471(2) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements in 16 CFR 1700).
Poisonous drugs and medicines may be sent only from the manufacturer or dealer to licensed physicians, surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, druggists, cosmetologists, barbers, and veterinarians (18 U.S.C. 1716). Some poisonous drugs are subject to the requirements for Division 6.1 materials in chapter 3.
Nothing in this section precludes the mailing of small amounts of unknown matter suspected of containing controlled substances to a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency for law enforcement purposes. Such mailings must comply with the applicable packaging requirements in 474.
If the possession of any type of drug paraphernalia is unlawful under the Controlled Substances Act, the article also is nonmailable. See DMM 601.11.12 for more information.
Mailers may use merchandise return service to return prescription drugs for purposes of drug recalls; voluntary manufacturer withdrawals; and dispensing errors such as incorrect drug, dosage, or strength, as permitted by 21 CFR 1307.12 or other applicable law. The mailpiece must be addressed to the manufacturer or its registered agent. Manufacturers or their registered agents must furnish mailing containers to their customers for the purpose of mailing back the identified drugs. Manufacturers or their registered agents must use merchandise return service (see DMM 507.9.0) with First–Class Mail or Priority Mail for these mailpieces. Manufacturers or their agents continue to be responsible for maintaining records in compliance with any regulation of the Drug Enforcement Administration and/or the Food and Drug Administration.