Marijuana is the Gift That Keeps on Giving. Vermont’s Lawmakers Should Not Get in the Way.

Vermont Democratic Attorney General TJ Donovan issued legal guidance on Monday, July 23, 2018, proclaiming all recreational marijuana sales illegal – regardless of how you structure the arrangement.

The attorney general was attempting to close a loophole that saw some enterprising vendors exploiting the concept of gift-with-purchase. The gift was marijuana. Sales of any sort, even in exchange for a “gift” of marijuana, are now outlawed. But Donovan emphasized that adults 21 and older can still offer gifts of marijuana when the exchange is within legal guidelines.

Specifically: “Individuals may gift pursuant to the parameters set forth in the law,” advised the guidance provided by Donovan’s office.

To Gift or Not to Gift?

Vermont is the first of nine states to make marijuana legal for individuals 21 and older through the legislative process. As a result, adults may possess up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of weed, grow two mature marijuana plants, and simultaneously cultivate four immature seedlings. A bold, progressive policy change for the residents of the Green Mountain State, the 2018 law neglected to create a regulated system for legal sales. That’s a potential problem for individuals in remote areas of the state, or those unable to cultivate their own medicine. After all, Act 86 allows adults 21 and older to gift up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 g, of marijuana between themselves. It’s important to define “gift.”

Gift: a noun 1.) a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.

In Vermont, as of March 29, 2018, there were 5,571 patients enrolled in the state marijuana registry. Currently, the state has five dispensaries with plans to add a sixth when the number of registered patients hits 7,000. One of the six New England states, Vermont is a relatively compact 80 miles wide and 160 miles long. Yet, according to a 2010 report from the United States Census Bureau, 61.1 percent of Vermont’s population lives in rural areas of the state’s 9,161 square miles. That makes the act of gifting sort of a big deal. Isolated by distance, prohibited by income, or made extra challenging because of illness, Vermonters should be allowed the benevolent act of giving marijuana to someone in need as an incredibly kind gesture without legal consequences.

Compassion and Cannabis Work In Harmony

While many believe the act of truly giving marijuana to the needy to be one of the highest forms of compassion, some cannabis capitalists have tried to pervert the intent of the gifting clause in Washington D.C. and Maine. In 2014, residents of Washington, DC, passed Initiative 71. In addition to allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 ounces, or 56.7 g, of marijuana, it also allowed them to gift no more than 1 ounce, or 28.35 g, to other adults. In Maine, after the passage of the Marijuana Legalization Act in 2016, adults were allowed to transfer or gift no more than 2 ½ ounces, or 70.9 g, of marijuana to fellow adults.

Across America, the act of giving marijuana to the less fortunate has been a critical element for the genesis of medical marijuana legislation. Like Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York, Vermont’s Act 86 has embraced the wisdom behind real marijuana gifting.  

In the long road to legalization, providing gifts of marijuana to those in need was a critical step toward adult-use cannabis legalization, and especially, the spread of medical marijuana. Going forward, legislators and voters alike should remember that compassion for the ill was a key element that awakened the world to the need for legal plant medicine and gifts between adults should never be banned.

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