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Is 'Free' Marijuana in Exchange for 'Donations' Legal in Colorado?

Colorado Springs IndependentColorado Springs IndependentOn January 30, the Colorado Springs Independent ran a story about a local business that was testing the limits of Amendment 64, the Colorado ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use. Although state-licensed pot stores are not expected to open until next year, it is already legal under Amendment 64 for adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, grow up to six plants at home and keep all the marijuana they produce, and transfer up to an ounce to other people who are 21 or older, provided the transfer is "without remuneration." The business model for Billygoatgreen MMJ was based on the ambiguity of that last requirement. Ostensibly, Billygoatgreen—which, despite the reference to medical marijuana in its name, served anyone 21 or older, not just patients with doctor's recommendations—was not selling pot; rather, it was delivering pot for free while inviting the recipients to make "suggested donation[s] towards researching [marijuana] and improving our cultivation operation." The suggested donation for a quarter-ounce of Sour Kush, for instance, was $55. Asked whether such an operation could be legal, Colorado Springs Police Lt. Mark Comte, who works in the Metro Vice, Narcotics, and Intelligence Division, replied:

If I show up at your house with less than an ounce of marijuana, I'm 21, you're 21, and I say, "Hey dude, it cost me 50 bucks in gas to get over here," and you give me 50 bucks for my gas, there's nothing illegal. I mean, you and I both know what's going on with it, but they know what the loopholes are right now. 

Yet the day before that comment appeared, The Denver Post reports, "two undercover Colorado Springs detectives organized a marijuana purchase from Billygoatgreen as part of an investigation into the service" that resulted in the arrest of three men running it, who now face felony charges punishable by long prison terms. No fair, says one of those men, Pritchard Garrett, who tells the Post that Comte "green-lighted this delivery business" in the Independent article, which he says sent potential customers a clear message: "Hey, the cops said this wasn't illegal, so call them up." Comte stands by his comments, saying Billygoatgreen delivered more than an ounce at a time to the detectives: 1.6 ounces on the first occasion, 2.1 ounces on the second.

The focus on quantity suggests that if the service had stayed within the one-ounce limit for transfers, Garret and his partners would have been OK. Other people still seem to be operating under that assumption. Craigslist searches find various offers of "free" marijuana deliveries in exchange for "donations" in Denver and Colorado Springs. A spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers tells the Post all these folks are criminals under state law, since "distributing marijuana in exchange for suggested donations is a scam to get around the laws against the sale of marijuana." Maybe so, but the law is hardly clear on that point. The line between helping to cover the expenses of someone who shares his homegrown marijuana with you and paying him for the marijuana itself is pretty fuzzy. Rob Corry, a Denver attorney and marijuana reform activist, says you could even argue that "reimbursing someone for their time" is legal, although he adds:

My personal view is that I don't think it ought to include reimbursement for time, because that starts looking like profit....My advice to clients is that it has to be direct, out-of-pocket costs [for things such as fertilizer, electricity, and rent], and it has to be documented. Being reimbursed for your time is pushing it. 

Corry himself pioneered a different approach with Club 64, a floating pot party where people pay a cover fee to consume marijuana in a commercial space. Club 64 had its first event on New Year's Eve at a hemp clothing store in Denver. "We had a DJ, lights, dancing, good music," Corry says. "We did serve alcohol, [but] we gave it away because we didn't have a liquor license for that event. We also had marijuana that we were giving away. We weren't selling it. The main way way we raised revenue was with an event fee of $30." A variation on this theme would be charging for food and coffee but giving pot away, which could result in something like Amsterdam's cannabis cafés even if on-site consumption is not allowed at the state-licensed marijuana stores. Either operation seems to satisfy Amendment 64's requirements, although much depends on how the initiative's ban on consuming marijuana "openly and publicly" is interpreted. To my mind, marijuana consumption behind closed doors in a private business, whether or not it describes itself as a membership-only "club," is neither "open" nor "public," but Colorado legislators and judges may take a different view.

Another wrinkle is the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in most "public places," including bars and restaurants. The law originally applied only to tobacco; it was amended in 2010 to cover "medical marijuana" but not, by its terms, any other kind. The upshot, says Corry, is that smoking marijuana in a business open to the public apparently would be legal as long as it was for purely recreational purposes. He suspects the state legislature will not allow that loophole to survive, although it could exempt establishments that cater to pot smokers from the Clean Indoor Air Act in the same way that it exempted cigar and hookah bars. Even if it didn't, vaporizers and marijuana edibles would not be covered by a ban on smoking.

[Thanks to CK for the tip.]

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  • R C Dean||

    Remuneration, believe it or not, is pretty clear. If they are soliciting, in any way, any cash or exchanges in kind for their, umm, kind, then when they recieve said cash or exchanges, they have been remunerated.

    The line between helping to cover the expenses of someone who shares his homegrown marijuana with you and paying him for the marijuana itself is pretty fuzzy.

    No, not really. He gives you pot, you give him cash. He's been paid for pot.

  • ||

    Why don't they give away the pot for free but charge a bunch for the delivery service?

  • R C Dean||

    Pretexts be pretexts, bro. Even if they really will give it away for free to anybody who shows up at their door with their hand out, if they charge $55/quarter for "delivery", I don't think its going to fly.

  • ||

    It's paying for pot even if I don't have to give money? If it's a donation and isn't mandatory for receiving pot I'm not sure how it can be claimed to be payment for the pot.

  • Duncan20903||

    Good luck getting them to give it up if you don't give up the cash.

    How about a "buds of the month" club?

  • ||

    Good luck getting them to give it up if you don't give up the cash.

    Except the whole point of the donation scheme is that payment ISN'T mandatory for the delivery of marijuana. It's like a street performer that says "throw some change into my hat if you liked my performance". Even if you don't throw the money the performance still happens.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    How about donations to those nice girls offering bodyrubs on Craigslist/Backpage? That's OK right?

  • Randian||

    I still maintain the way around those laws is to videotape the encounter. Porn is perfectly legal in the United States.

    I just can't find anyone willing to be a test case.

  • Randian||

    I still maintain the way around those laws is to videotape the encounter. Porn is perfectly legal in the United States.

    I just can't find anyone willing to be a test case.

  • Randian||

    I still maintain the way around those laws is to videotape the encounter. Porn is perfectly legal in the United States.

    I just can't find anyone willing to be a test case.

  • Libertymike||

    Once, Twice, Three Times a Randy.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The suggested donation for a quarter-ounce of Sour Kush, for instance, was $55.

    I'd like to suggest this specific donation to my dealer. I have a feeling he'd have a suggestion for me.

  • wheelock||

    Its so awesome to watch the price of herb plummet in Colorado... Market forces. Who knew?

  • Brandon||

    If they would hurry the fuck up and get all the bullshit out of the way and just legalize it like their constituents overwhelmingly instructed them to, this would not even be an issue. How long did it take for pot to become illegal when prohibition was passed?

  • Rich||

    just legalize it like their constituents overwhelmingly instructed them to

    It seems so simple to those of us unfamiliar with the legal arts.

  • ||

    Oh but they did. The amendment didn't allow for full legalization, and this instance is an excellent example of that.

    Don't worry folks, TOP MEN will decide who can and cannot sell marijuana in the state of Colorado.

  • Duncan20903||

    Criminalization of cannabis started in D.C. in 1906 and culminated with the passage of the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 which oddly enough was passed by Congress in 1937. It was struck down in 1969 in Dr. Timothy Leary v United States of America, 395 U.S. 6 (1969) Yes, that Timothy Leary.

  • InlineSkate||

    I can't be the only one who thinks the 1 oz limit is ridiculous. What difference does it make if I buy 1oz or 30lbs?

  • NeonCat||

    Freshness?

    Economy of scale?

  • Duncan20903||

    It's a start. Baby steps old man, baby steps. The only thing that was legalized subsequent to ratification of the 21st Amendment was 3.2% beer AKA piss water.

    How in the world would you talk the irrational into supporting the rational? One baby step at a time is the only way I'm sure makes it possible.

  • Anthony Biedenkapp||

    Simply a step to try and prevent Fed and other State's interaction. If they regulate it out to 30lbs, everyone would point fingers and say that everyone would smuggle them elsewhere. Holder would jump down the throats of them immediately.

  • Duncan20903||

    Smoking is not required to gain the benefits of cannabis, whether for medicinal need or just for enjoyment. There's no reason for the Colorado "Clean" Air Act to get in the way. If it encourages people to quit smoking their cannabis perhaps it can have a good side.



    Vaporization is proven safe, less expensive, and preferred by patients over smoking by a margin of 7:1 in peer reviewed research published in 2007. 

    http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/index.....Itemid=135

  • vaporizer vaporizers||

    i totally agree with vaporization and the facts you mentioned ,) And another wo0ot for vaporizers!!

  • Marijuana Grower||

    According tothe ‘Amendment 64’; for adults of 21 years of age or older can now possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. They can keep all the marijuana they produce and transfer up to an ounce to other people, who are 21 or older. For this, grower should know the tips and tricks which are used by a marijuana store owner. Here are some tips and tactics for a marijuana grower. - http://www.hydroponicssupplies.....ng-advice/

  • vaporizer vaporizers||

    awesome tip too btw ,) let's here it for Colorado!!! And most importantly for the vaporizer!

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