Entrepreneurs in Vermont are getting crafty with technicalities.
Photo by Georgia Love
Vermont recently legalized the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, but—and this is a big but—there isn’t a framework for legal cannabis sales. The new law, which does allow personal home-grows, took effect on July, and it didn’t take long for a few of the entrepreneurial-inclined to find a workaround. By gifting cannabis, then charging hefty delivery fees for the favor, they weren’t technically selling it.
But Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan does not agree, The Associated Press reports. On Monday, July 23, his office released an advisory clarifying that it is very much illegal to give away cannabis as a package deal with another gift or service.
A prohibitionist group, Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont, immediately called for the prosecution of all businesses involved. Donovan said that prosecution decisions were up to local state attorneys and that his intent was merely to inform.
Companies like Weedy’s Warehouse, a service advertising delivery of an eighth of pot for $40 and an ounce for $280, seemed to comply with the new directive quickly. Though they did not return the AP’s request for comment, they did post on Facebook that they were not willing to “jeopardize your freedom or put you at risk to go to jail.”
Attorney Tim Fair, who represents another delivery company, Rolling Flower, told the AP he’s telling his clients to cease operations and wait for new legislation.
This is similar to the situation in Washington D.C., where enterprising cannabis growers were hosting swap meets, of sorts, at which they’d sell $40 t-shirts that just happened to come with an eighth. While Washington legalized personal possession and home-grows, Republicans in Congress have used their authority over the city’s funding to block them from setting up any system for legal sales. Despite this, authorities in the nation’s capital have come down hard on these swap meets.
In Vermont, enterprising pot businesses were employing a similar business model. Though the people selling them wouldn’t describe their delivery fees as prices—e.g., a monetary amount loosely associated with the value of an object—it’s hard not to see them as such. Delivering an ounce of pot is not $240 more difficult than delivering an eighth.
But many contend that the problem is a lack of legal sales, not gifting laws.
“If marijuana is a legal product for adults, it should not be a crime for someone to hand a joint to another adult or to give them some because they’re friends,” Mason Tvert, a Marijuana Policy Project spokesman, told the AP. In Washington State, it was illegal for many years after the passage of the state’s legalization initiative for adults to gift one another cannabis.
You could have it, you could smoke it, but heaven forbid you pass it to the left.
It wasn’t such an issue in a state with legal cannabis sales, as people were able to easily obtain their pot, but it’s easy to see why people in Washington and Vermont have tried to interpret the law a bit more…creatively.
“Entrepreneurial ingenuity is not going to stop,” according to Fair, the Rolling Flower attorney. “We’re going to be coming up against this problem again and again and again until the legislature does the right thing and pass a reasonable tax and regulate bill.”
And entrepreneurs in Vermont might find inspiration from other states. In Washington, after gifting was legalized, one intrepid entrepreneur immediately saw an opportunity to meet another of the state’s unmet cannabis needs: delivery. Despite being one of the oldest legal cannabis states, delivery is still very illegal in Washington. His thinking went that, so long as he was only charging a convenience fee for delivery, he could give people as much weed as he wanted.
But as ever, the law is the law is the law in Vermont and elsewhere. And until those laws change, it seems, the weed-starved citizens of Vermont are just going to have to grow their own.