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Vermont Attorney General Rules It Illegal for Businesses to Gift Marijuana

The Attorney General of Vermont has officially clarified a critical grey area in the laws regarding cannabis.

A.J. Herrington

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Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has ruled that it is illegal for businesses in the state to gift marijuana in any kind of commercial transaction. Donovan announced his ruling in an advisory released on Monday.

The ruling is in response to businesses that are trying to commercialize Vermont’s new recreational marijuana legalization law, known as Act 86. As soon as the law went into effect earlier this month, some companies began offering “free” marijuana in exchange for a steep delivery fee.

Other firms offered overpriced, usually inexpensive items such as stickers or jewelry that came with a “gift” of marijuana. Similar schemes attempting to take advantage of a gifting loophole have surfaced in Boston and Washington, D.C. Donovan ruled all such transactions in the state of Vermont are not permitted under Act 86.

“Act 86 does not legalize the sale of marijuana,” said Donovan. “Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter, or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law. This includes a commercial transaction (i.e., an exchange of goods or services for money) with a purported “gift” of marijuana. Examples include: selling an item or service, like a bracelet or t-shirt with the “gift” of marijuana. Charging someone for the purported “delivery” of a marijuana “gift” would also be considered a sale.”

Donovan also clarified that individuals may gift marijuana only to adults 21 and older. Gifts of more than one ounce of cannabis are also not permitted.

Act 86 Passed By Vermont Legislature in January

Vermont became the first state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis by action of the legislature, which passed the bill in January of this year. Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill on January 22 and it went into effect on July 1. The other U.S. states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults have done so through a voter initiative.

Act 86 legalizes the personal possession of up to one ounce of pot and the cultivation of up to two mature and four immature cannabis plants per residence. Plant yields of more than one ounce may be kept at home, but not carried on one’s person.

The law does not create a taxed and regulated infrastructure for cannabis sales. Some Vermont lawmakers have said they will push to establish a legal commercial framework during the 2019 legislative session.

Tim Fair is a Vermont attorney that specializes in cannabis law. He told local media that he met with the attorney general last week to discuss the issue of marijuana gifting. Fair also said that he represents six businesses that have been gifting cannabis.

Fair said although he may disagree with the attorney general’s ruling, he is advising his clients to comply with the advisory.

Fair noted that Act 86 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,” he added. “By working collaboratively, we can grow this the right way.”

AG Also Clarifies Other Rules

In his advisory, Donovan also noted that Act 86 prohibits the consumption of cannabis in public places and motor vehicles. The attorney general said that his office “will continue to work with stakeholders to find practical solutions related to changes in Vermont’s marijuana laws.”

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