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Woman Charged for ‘Gifting’ Weed, Which Is Totally Legal in Massachusetts

The district attorney's office claims that there's "sufficient evidence to suggest a crime had been committed."

Stanimir Stoev/Dreamstime.comStanimir Stoev/Dreamstime.comIn November 2016, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But nearly two years later, there are still no stores licensed to sell pot to the public. One business owner now she faces criminal charges for trying to find a way around the roadblock.

The North-Andover Eagle Tribune reports:

Sandra Kattar of Haverhill faces distribution of marijuana charges after an undercover sting found her exchanging small amounts of marijuana for products at Humble Bumble in Methuen last year.

Authorities were tipped off that Humble Bumble, a since-closed health and wellness store, would overcharge for regular items. In return, customers were "'gifted' specific amounts of a green, leafy substance consistent with marijuana," per court documents.

Local police set up a sting operation. According to a police report, an undercover officer visited the store in September and asked Kattar, who co-owned the business, for "the strong stuff." He was told to buy an unrelated item for $45, which he did, and was then given an eighth of an ounce of weed, nominally for free.

The officer came back a few days later and was gifted more weed. But when a different officer called the store the next day, he was apparently told the gifting program was no more. Why? The previous night, the Methuen City Council had banned recreational marijuana facilities.

It's not clear where Humble Bumble broke the law. It wasn't technically selling marijuana to customers, and it seems like the store did its best to comply with local regulations. Still, Essex County District Attorney's Office Carrie Kimball Monahan tells the Eagle Tribune that there was "sufficient evidence to suggest a crime had been committed."

Kattar's attorney, Joe Goldberg-Giuliano, unsuccessfully attempted to have to have the case dismissed. "There is no law in Massachusetts that expressly prohibits gifting cannabis as incidental to a separate commercial transaction," his motion read.

He's right. Under Massachusetts law, it's not illegal to give away weed for free. The transfer simply can't be "advertised or promoted to the public." Other companies in the state have been taking advantage of this loophole as well. But according to Goldberg-Giuliano, only Kattar has been prosecuted.

Gifting weed isn't just a Massachusetts phenomenon. In Washington, D.C., marijuana is legal for recreational use, but federal law has kept stores from legally selling it. Those circumstances have given rise to lots of gifting; the D.C. authorities appear to be cracking down.

Legal technicalities aside, marijuana shouldn't be so difficult to obtain when it's already legal.

In Massachusetts, voters decided a long time ago they had no problem with allowing a trade in recrational pot. Slow-moving lawmakers and pointless regulations then made gifting necessary. If authorities want this practice to end, they should let the legal alternatives flower.

Photo Credit: Stanimir Stoev/Dreamstime.com

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  • Hamster of Doom||

    The Myth of the Rule of Law

    It's a good read.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Laws are interpreted by men. That's a massive dilution right at the start.

    Then you put most of the writing and interpretation of men who have a cartel to keep prices high and clients who don't have a lot of choice, and you are just begging for quibble-bait.

    I go back to my fantasy that anyone can challenge a law for being defective: inconsistent definition or enforcement, vague, does not meet predicted expectations as to effect. Such challenges must be heard by juries, no judges, and there is no appeal if not unanimously in favor of it, because that by definition shows it is unclear.

    Laws would be simple and few. Lawyers would still make a living. Legislators would have no excuse for being full time.

  • Jerryskids||

    Obviously, attempting to break the law by means of not breaking the law is breaking the law. It's like people who try to weasel their way out of speeding tickets by making sure they drive below the speed limit, we all know they're really guilty of speeding or else why would they be so careful not to speed?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Legal technicalities aside, marijuana shouldn't be so difficult to obtain when it's already legal.

    When will voters learn that, in a representative republic, they are not in charge.

  • Number 2||

    You miss the point. It wasn't that the accused provided a customer with a gift of a "green, leafy substance consistent with marijuana." Rather, the accused provided a customer with a "green, leafy substance consistent with marijuana" without the state taking its cut. Why do you think they call it "tax and regulate?"

  • Rich||

    Legal technicalities aside, marijuana shouldn't be so difficult to obtain when it's already legal.

    However, it is not legal; it's "legal".

  • Sigivald||

    It wasn't technically selling marijuana to customers

    I think you'll find any court would disagree that "buy this thing for way more than its normal market value and get this thing we can't technically 'sell' you that happens to make up the difference in price" is "not technically selling the thing".

    It's obviously selling the thing, with a pretense that wouldn't fool a middle-schooler.

    This is like hippies trying to claim they don't owe taxes on "barter" transactions or income, when they do them for a living - it fools nobody and the Courts don't agree.

    (I mean, I think it's horrible policy to ban marijuana sales.

    But it's just dumb to push this sort of argument, which won't hold water for 30 seconds.)

  • Sigivald||

    Note specifically: "There is no law in Massachusetts that expressly prohibits gifting cannabis as incidental to a separate commercial transaction," his motion read.

    Incidental being the keyword.

    "Buy this product at an inflated price so we can pretend we're 'giving' you marijuana you just actually paid for" is not an incidental gift, any more than "we're giving you this company car and all these lunches in exchange for a lower cash salary" is lower total comp and not taxable as income.

    We don't have to like that to acknowledge it is absolutely true in current laws - and frankly it should be true; so long as we tax sales and incomes, we should treat obvious bullshit dodges like, well, obvious bullshit dodges. It might well be better if neither thing was taxed, but that's a different argument that should be made on its own merits.

    "But this bullshit is good because I wish such things weren't the case" is not very effective at convincing people - people like clear rules and standards, not exceptions for Stuff We Prefer.

  • Eddy||

    Try this, buy two items at a buy-one-get-one-free deal, then laughingly ask which is the free one, if they point to one, tell them the other one is defective and you want a refund.

    It's very effective - at getting you thrown out of stores.

  • tommhan||

    Such a waste of police resources.

  • WillPaine||

    Common practice in places (where apparently legislators have been drinking too much, and can't figure out clear law language). Buy a tee shirt for $50; get a bag of cannabis free..#:-)

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