GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As marijuana fans wait for the day when marijuana can be legally bought and sold – a day as long as a year away – some are trying to find loopholes in the recently passed Proposal 1 that will allow them to get their weed now.
But some enterprising individuals are trying to use that provision to generate another kind of green.
“It’s pretty clear, giving away or otherwise transferring without remuneration – without compensation – up to 2.5 ounces to a person who is 21 years or older is authorized as long as the transference is not advertised or promoted to the public,” said Robert Hendricks, a business attorney specializing in marijuana law and one of the drafters of Proposal 1.
But while the proposal clearly states that marijuana cannot be legally sold until the state sets up the licensing and regulation over the next few months, some are wondering if they can use the old trick of selling something other than marijuana and then including the weed as a “gift.”
A business model appearing online is looking to exploit a loophole in the law is Boston-based On High Road, which is offering pick and delivery in the Detroit area. It allows people to pay $55 for muffins, $75 for cookies or $150 for a T-shirt that includes a “free gift.”
The service is not available yet in West Michigan, and Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. HIlson who is also president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, said in a statement that the business “appears not to fit the spirit of the law” and called on the state to specifically address this kind of scheme.
“I think your feet are over the line and there’s a pretty good chance you could be in trouble over this,” said Hendricks.
He says patience is definitely the best course when it comes to marijuana in Michigan.
“Those crafty entrepreneurs are exactly the kind of people we want to power our economy,” he said.
These types of businesses may be shady now, but their day is coming.
“We’re gonna make it less likely they’re gonna be attracted to the black market and more likely they’ll get into some legalized market where they’ll help everybody,” he said.
Still, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things in this new world of legal weed.
“Let’s say I’m one of those proponents who use adult recreational marijuana and I want my friends to come over for the evening and share with me, that does not violate the law,” Hendricks said.
The law now allows for possession in a home of as much as 10 ounces or 12 plants, any one of which could exceed 10 ounces, but as long as you can prove you grew it, it’s legal.
But the reality is that all the marijuana that exists in Michigan had its origins as illegal drugs, which has forced Michiganders into a kind of legal don’t’ ask, don’t tell.
“It’s one of these fictions where you just say ‘look, we have to start somewhere, let’s start where we are, let’s give the regulators time to put the regulations and the application procedures in place and in the meantime if you possess marijuana, it’s legal,” Hendricks said.
And even if police want to know where the marijuana came from, users are protected.
“We have a right not to incriminate ourselves,” Hendricks said. “So, it a police officer asks you where you got your marijuana, you say ‘with all due respect, Mr. Police Officer, I don’t wish to answer that question.’”
But as we see with prosecutors dismissing marijuana cases, law enforcement is having to come to terms with a reality they may not agree with.
“Frankly, I don’t think the police are that interested in probing the source of a couple of ounces of marijuana in possession of a regular citizen. I don’t think that’s what they’re up to,” he said.
The one source of marijuana that has been legal for the last 10 years is medical marijuana, but is it OK for those patients to share?
“The practical answer is if a patient has marijuana and choses to give some of it away, as long as they don’t exceed the limits, I think they’re fine,” Hendricks said.
Again, the key here is that it really has to be a gift. No money, nothing of value can be exchanged for marijuana until the state finally sets the rules for how and where business will be operating.
That could take until next December.