Happy Give Something Away Day, everyone!
And yes, this is a real holiday.
Originally submitted to the National Day Calendar by Linda Eaton Hall-Fulcher as an innocent day of kindness and paying it forward, Give Something Away Day has become a fun motivator for well-wishers, do-gooders and even organizing specialists across the country. Naturally, it got us thinking, can you legally give away weed?
The laws surrounding the sale of marijuana are clear: It’s either illegal to sell, period.Or, it’s illegal to sell if you don’t have the proper licensing and permits. But as soon as “gifts” enter the picture, things get more complicated.
Giving the Gift of Ganja in Recreational States
In most states where cannabis is legal to sell recreationally, it’s permissible to give away a small amount, usually 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of cannabis to anyone age 21 or older. Maine is the only recreational state where gifting marijuana is still illegal.
So if you live in states such as California, Nevada, and Colorado, the option is yours to celebrate Give Something Away Day by giving your friend, family member, or significant other an ounce of cannabis flower. The same goes for Oregon and Washington, as long as you remember not to give gifts across the border between these two canna-friendly states.
Live in Alaska? You can give away as many as six marijuana plants!
Welcome to the ‘Gifting Economy’
But what if you don’t live in a fully recreationally legal state? Turns out you may not be entirely out of luck due to a “gift loophole.”
You may already be aware of “marijuana gifting services” popping up in states where recreational legalization has passed, but retail sales are either still illegal or yet to be regulated. If you live in one of these states — this may be the way you purchase your weed.
Maybe you order a candy bar, can of soda ,or baseball card for $60 or $80, and your extravagant purchase comes with a “free gift.” And wouldn’t you know it … that “free gift” just so happens to be an eighth of Strawberry Cough.
It’s a legal loophole that’s shaped budding cannabis markets in places like Massachusetts and Washington D.C., where legalization has passed without the opportunity for dispensary licensing. One “T-shirt delivery service” in Massachusetts sells T-shirts with images of dry flower, concentrates, and accessories on them. Surprise: the image on the t-shirt corresponds with the “gift” customers receive with their purchase. Paper Boys, a delivery service in D.C., sells rolling papers and asks customers to specify a “gift preference” when checking out online.
The specifics vary from shop to shop, but the basic concept is practically universal: Sell a non-cannabis product and offer weed as a complimentary “gift” so the exchange is technically compliant with distribution laws.
Gift “pop-up shops” have been a trending mode of cannabis commerce in Washington, D.C., since the passing of Initiative 71 in 2014. Pop-up events are held at local businesses or other undisclosed locations where brands gather and offer cannabis gifts with the purchase of every generic, non-marijuana product. Business has gotten trickier for these pop-up shops, however, following high-profile raids in 2018. The XO Lounge in downtown Washington was raided in January 2018, followed by the Mason Inn sports bar in February. In both raids, vendors were arrested for intent to distribute, even though they were distributing “gifts.”
So what do these raids tell us about the cannabis “gift” market? Perhaps most urgently, they demonstrate that the gift loophole isn’t foolproof. In states where it’s legal to consume but illegal to sell, distributing cannabis “gifts” at a centralized location is an increasingly risky venture. Ordering from marijuana “gifting” delivery services is technically legal, though certainly a gray area. (Marijuana.com does not advocate you use of any of these unlicensed services).
Luckily, giving an actual cannabis gift to a friend or acquaintance is genuinely a safe thing to do in all recreational states but Maine. If you’re in a recreational state this Give Something Away Day, giving some weed away (as long as you’re not accepting money) is perfectly legal.