State News

Marijuana gifting businesses illegal, AG advises

By Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Gifting marijuana in exchange for another purchase is illegal under Vermont’s new legalization law, according to a guidance issued by the state’s top prosecutor Monday.

Attorney General TJ Donovan’s office advised that sales of any kind are illegal under the marijuana legalization law that took effect July 1.

“Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter, or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law,” the guidance states.

Under the new law, adults can possess up to an ounce of marijuana or up to two mature and four immature marijuana plants. The law did not create a system of legalized sales, as other states like Massachusetts and Colorado have adopted. However, adults can give up to an ounce of marijuana to each other.

Several businesses have cropped up in Vermont over the past few weeks allowing customers to pay for an item or a service, and, in exchange, receive a “gift” of marijuana.

One Chittenden County business, Rolling Flower, advertised “FREE CANNABIS GIFTS” on Facebook, charging a delivery fee that increases along with the amount of marijuana customers order.

The guidance from the attorney general advises that those models are considered illegal.

Donovan said Monday that the guidance is meant to clear up some “ambiguity” about the new law.

He emphasized that gifting marijuana is legal between adults and within the amount restrictions. However, it is not legal when there is a financial transaction.

“The clear letter of the law is you can’t sell,” he said. “Clearly when you’re having a delivery service online when their charge is for delivery, that’s a sale.”

At the moment, his priority is to raise awareness among the public about what is legal under the new law.

“The first way to enforce the law is to educate people about the law,” he said. “Then we’ll exercise our discretion accordingly based on a case by case basis.”

However, Donovan is already looking ahead to when lawmakers return to Montpelier in January. He believes legislators should re-examine the effectiveness of the existing marijuana policies and consider a system in which marijuana sales are regulated and taxed.

“I think this forces the issue,” he said of the current entrepreneurial gray area.

There is significant interest in the industry from entrepreneurs, and Donovan has concerns about how well the state is protecting consumers.

As to whether the newly implemented marijuana law would make a tax-and-regulate system a more enticing proposal from his perspective, Donovan said it’s “too early to say.”

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