How to Give Weed Away for Free

Pre-roll, edible, or vape cartridge: cannabis is a compelling stocking-stuffer packed with holiday cheer. But is giving weed away legal — or a good idea? Yes, with limitations.

Last Christmas, the gift idea of the season in certain corners of Michigan was cannabis — because buying a $100 chocolate bar, or $200 t-shirt, or some other absurdly priced, everyday item and then receiving $100 or $200 worth of weed as a “gift” was how the (somewhat) legal market worked.

(Turns out “buy some chocolate, get some weed” was an effective sales pitch.)

In Washington, D.C., where voters legalized cannabis but lawmakers from Texas and elsewhere still make rules in Congress such convoluted “gifting” schemes are technically the only way you can legally exchange cash for weed, and will be so for the foreseeable future.

But most gifts are for actual giving — as in there’s no exchange of cash for goods involved, a ritualized tradition that helps our market economy move every year around this time — which begs a question: Can you give someone cannabis for Hannukah, or Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or just because?

The answer is absolutely, mostly, but there are some limitations to keep in mind, depending on where you live and to whom you’re giving.

The Art & Science of Gifting Weed

Size-wise at least, cannabis makes an ideal gift. Jars are easy to wrap (and make fine vessels for other commodities once the contents are rolled up and smoked away), pre-rolls and edibles fit in pockets as well as they fit in stockings or small boxes. Cannabis is also popular, and if not legalized, at least decriminalized in most places. You probably won’t shock or stigmatize your relatives or co-workers if you gifted them a few grams from your home-grow, or dipped into the dispensary on the way to the workplace gift swap to grab a chocolate bar — though if you work at a school or children’s day-care, you risk both offending your officious acquaintances and running afoul of the law.

Rule: It Must Be a Gift

Obviously, if cannabis is not yet legal in your state, or if cannabis is legal only with a medical-cannabis recommendation, two people who are not patients can’t legally exchange weed (though it’s the possession itself and not the exchange, for no compensation, that’s the violation).

But since legal cannabis is new and cannabis laws are restrictive — more restrictive than laws around alcohol or cigarettes, two substances to which weed is (unfairly) often compared — gifting weed is a valuable technique beyond the holidays, because in most situations and in most states, Michigan among them, the only way to transfer cannabis from one person to another outside of the legal framework is with a gift.

(In situations when the monetary exchange is intended to cover the giver’s labor and materials, the question gets fuzzier, but since this is a gifting guide and not a sales guide, it’s not our concern.)

And if you want to be legal — who doesn’t — you need to obey other quirks of local law as well.

Rule: It Can’t Be Too Much

Every state that’s legalized cannabis has also established legal possession limits. These range, usually, from about one to two ounces.

In places where cannabis is legal, how much you can give away depends on the possession limit in your particular legal jurisdiction. Adults 21 and over in California, for example, are allowed to possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis flower — that is, exactly one ounce — and 8 grams of concentrates.

In Michigan, “it is not unlawful to give away or otherwise transfer without remuneration, that is without compensation, up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to a person 21 years of age or older as long as the transfer is not advertised or promoted to the public,” as attorney Bob Hendricks explained to Fox-17 last year.

In California, “[t]here is nothing to worry about when it comes to adults giving away cannabis to other adults ages 21 and over for the holidays, as long as the quantities are within the limits of up to 28.5 grams of cannabis and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis,” as longtime cannabis attorney Omar Figueroa told Cannabis Now.

Rule: They Can’t Be Too Young

This should go without saying, but under all circumstances you must resist any urges to be the cool aunt, or the cool cousin, or the cool whatever, if you believe giving weed to someone under 21 is a cool act — because in addition to being sort of sleazy, giving cannabis to someone under 21 (or, much worse, under 18) is one of the few cannabis-related acts that carry severe penalties, including prison, in a legal state. Handing a joint to a 17-year-old could lead to a felony charge. As attorney Vikras Bajaj pointed out, the gift can also have serious implications for the receiver: They could be forced to pay a fine or complete community service just because you gave them weed. Don’t do it.

Other Rules Apply

By now, you probably get the idea: There are some laws to follow when gifting weed, just like there are rules to follow if you wanted to gift someone a carton of cigarettes, a nugget of plutonium, or other substances on which the government has affixed certain restrictions. As much as a box filled with sungrown MAC from Mendocino might be welcomed in Massachusetts, crossing state lines with legal cannabis is illegal! And we, as a cannabis publication, could never endorse conduct that is not legal. We just couldn’t. No. Can’t. Won’t.

Know the Givee

Finally, try to obey the normal and sensible rules of gift-giving. Is giving this weed an appropriate gift? Well, does the recipient like weed? Maybe that will dictate whether you try out a high-CBD vape pen on mom or dad or bother with a weak edible to your dabbed-out Wookie cousin.

You would not — or at least you should not — waste time and resources giving someone stuff they don’t need. Just as you would not give a Cutco set to a chef with a vast array of knives and you would not bother giving a sommelier a bottle of Charles Shaw (except as an ironic joke that still quickly wears thin) you wouldn’t offend an Emerald Cup-winning grower or a total weed snob with a jar of boof, unless you thought it was funny.

“I would be delighted if gifted huge sparkling colas of biodynamic cannabis for the holidays!” Figueroa said. “Branded mids? Not so much.”

Roberts, ByChris. “How to Give Weed Away for Free.” Cannabis Now, 26 Dec. 2019, cannabisnow.com/how-to-give-weed-away-for-free/.

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