Marijuana Matters: Should authorities crack down on ganja gifting?

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Should Vermont crack down on businesses gifting cannabis? Groups against gifting are calling on the Vermont Attorney General's office to press charges against businesses that provide a free gift of cannabis with other paid services.

"It's just a marketing tactic. They know it, everybody knows it," said Guy Page with Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont. The group was formed last year and has been lobbying against cannabis legalization ever since. "I don't know why they didn't close that loophole."

Page is talking about something not written into Act 86 -- giving away or gifting up to an ounce of cannabis. A growing number of businesses around Vermont are offering their services for residents over 21. At least two businesses have advertised delivery of cannabis for a delivery charge.

Page and his group say that's still illegal and the state, county prosecutors and the U.S Attorney should enforce the law. "It's up to them to say, 'No, this is illegal. This is against the spirit and the letter of the law," he said. He says the loophole will make cannabis more accessible to young people, a major concern of many groups that advocated against legalization. "Commercial pot needs to have drug addicts. It needs to have people who are consuming a lot of the product. And the best people to get are the young people because they are the easiest to addict."

Vermont Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman disagrees. "It's almost a farce to say this is increasing access to the youth. If you ask any high schooler, they can get cannabis easier than they can get alcohol," Zuckerman said. The long-time supporter of legalization says a tax and regulated market should be the next step to avoid legal loopholes like gifting. "I think legislators are going to look closely at this next year, and I hope with the cooperation of the governor we can move forward to take this all off the table and really bring it above board."

Zuckerman says cannabis stores and more regulation could create a shift in the underground market. "That will make it harder, certainly not impossible, but harder for youth to get," he said.

The Vermont Attorney General's Office says an information advisory on the topic of gifting will be coming early next week. They had no immediate details on the content of that advisory.