Vermont AG: It's illegal for businesses to 'gift' marijuana

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This gift won't legally keep giving.

Selling an item or offering a service that comes with some "free" cannabis is illegal under Vermont's new recreational marijuana law, Attorney General T.J. Donovan declared in an advisory Monday. The interpretation of the law, which went into effect July 1 and is known as Act 86, comes after several businesses cropped up offering cannabis, edibles and vape cartridges in exchange for a delivery fee. Some entrepreneurs were also selling an overpriced item such as a sticker, T-shirt or bracelet and would throw in a "gift" of marijuana on the side. That kind of transaction is considered a marijuana sale, according to Donovan.

"Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter, or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law," Donovan wrote in the advisory. He added: "Individuals may gift pursuant to the parameters set forth in the law."

Act 86 allows Vermonters to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and two mature and four immature cannabis plants. Consuming cannabis in public remains illegal, as does driving under the influence of the drug.

The legislation did not create a taxed-and-regulated market for selling cannabis, something advocates derided because it makes obtaining marijuana, or seeds to grow the drug, more difficult. The lack of regulation gave instant rise to a gifting "gray market." Such a market also exists in Washington, D.C., which has a law similar to Vermont's.

Some businesses, such as Rolling Flower VT, opened up shop on the first day of legalization in the Green Mountain State, offering weed for a delivery fee.

Tim Fair, an attorney who runs a firm focused on cannabis law, said he met with Donovan and others in the attorney general’s office last week to discuss the issue of gifting. About six gifting businesses have reached out to Fair, who has about two dozen clients, most of whom run hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) companies.

Following the AG’s ruling, Fair said he’d advise his gifting clients, including Rolling Flower, to put an end to the practice “until we have a tax-and-regulate bill.”

Fair said he didn’t necessarily agree with Donovan’s interpretation of the law, which does not specifically prohibit gifting, “but it’s either play ball or fight, and fighting doesn’t get us anywhere.

“We have to think long term,” Fair said. “By working collaboratively, we can grow this the right way.”

Read the full advisory here.

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