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New York State cannabis office says ‘gifting’ weed is illegal, but prosecutors aren’t so sure

Last month, New York regulators made waves after sending cease and desist letters to more than 50 operators who were allegedly selling marijuana illegally. These “grey market” businesses have cited language in the new state cannabis law that allows “gifting” as a loophole to sell weed without a license.

Under New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, it’s illegal for unlicensed operators to sell weed, but legal for adults to give each other cannabis for free. As a result, some operators are exploiting that ambiguity to, for example, sell bumper stickers for $50 and include with each one a “gift” of 3.5 grams of weed.

Officials at the Office of Cannabis Management say there is no such ambiguity in the MRTA, nor is there a workaround.
“There’s not a loophole, there’s not a grey area,” said Chris Alexander, the office’s executive director, in an interview with NY Cannabis Insider last month. “The gifting language that people are relying on is between two individuals outside of a business transaction.”

But prosecutors across the state aren’t so sure.

DA’s differ on legality

NY Cannabis Insider reached out to five district attorneys’ offices this month and found positions differ from county to county: The Onondaga County DA’s Office takes no position on the legality; The Erie County DA’s Office views “gifting” as legal, as long as it’s within allowable limits; and the Albany County DA’s Office awaits further guidance. [Read more at New York Upstate]

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