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New Plattsburgh store to test cannabis ‘gifting’ model

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York state legalized marijuana in March but hasn’t yet created the rules for retail sales. That hasn’t stopped some businesses, including a new pot shop in Plattsburgh, from testing a loophole.

You may not be able to sell cannabis in New York yet, but can a business legally give it away as a gift? “We’re pretty excited, we’re expecting a really big crowd,” said William Ashabranner with Grassndash, which is opening its new store along U.S. Avenue in Plattsburgh Friday.

Grassndash is already doing business in the Plattsburgh area online. They sell and deliver canisters. And with each order, they offer a gift of cannabis. “We’re at over a thousand customers right now,” Ashabranner said.

The three-person team makes deliveries in a 30-mile radius of Plattsburgh, but with business booming, they wanted to open up a retail shop in the city. Ashabranner

says customers pick which size canister they want, pay for it, and then pick which gift they want inside. Prices range from $45 to $110 and the gifts can come as cannabis, flower, edibles, joints, and concentrates. “Just a driver’s license. We make sure anyone we give anything to is over 21,” he said.

They say they’ve done their research with a local attorney to make sure they are following all state laws. “We stay in the legal limit. Each person can have up to three ounces on them, so stay within a six-ounce limit here at the shop,” Ashabranner said.

“It’s a usual way of doing business,” admitted Clinton County Sheriff Dave Favro. He marijuana legalization is still new and being fine-tuned, but even without rules in place for retail sales, he still thinks the gifting scheme may be illegal. “From what you’re describing to me, by selling a product and attaching something to it as a gift for buying that product, would still constitute as a sale.”

The state’s new Office of Cannabis Management agrees, and said in a statement that “The unlicensed sale of cannabis remains illegal in New York State, including the concept of ‘gifting,’ and the state will work with its local partners to enforce the law.” They went on to confirm that no licenses for retail sales have been issued.

Retailers in Vermont also tried gifting pot, but Attorney General T.J Donovan in 2018 put quashed the practice, saying that gifting coupled with a financial transaction is a sale and sales are still illegal.

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