Legalization lesson for VT in DC marijuana experience

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Just days after pot became legal to possess in Vermont, growers are already trying to bend the state's ban on selling it.

The development is no surprise to many who followed Washington D.C.'s legalization experience, as Vermont's law mirrors the district's in many respects.

Like in Vermont, buying marijuana isn't legal in the nation's capital, but it can be given away. Several stores that sell glass pipes and other smoking paraphernalia, will also sell T-shirts for about $45. Those shirts come with a 'free gift,' two grams of marijuana.

Joe Tierney reviews medical and recreational marijuana products for his website: Gentleman Toker. We asked if anyone really wants a particular gaudy T-shirt that comes with a free gift. He couldn't help but laugh, "hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Tierney said the best pot-related businesses offer a great product that's legal to sell - like cookies, clothing, or art - and marijuana strains that standout the tastes of connoisseurs like himself. "That's the ideal situation," he said, adding that many growers have used marijuana's draw to benefit charities for children and other noble causes.

It's not hard to find ads for 'marijuana gifts' on street corners, or online, where you can arrange for a delivery much like one would a pizza. Tierney said it would be nice to have a taxed and regulated market. But he said, the pseudo-legal cover provided by D.C.'s model has allowed customers to review 'gifters,'helping weed out bad actors.

In reporting this story, we reached out to more than 15 businesses. A couple responded; none would speak with us on-camera. They said they don't want to draw unwanted attention while maintain the business model is perfectly legal.

Narcotics officers see the situation differently. "If you're providing marijuana, and you're getting something of value in return, you're selling marijuana," said Lt. Andy Struhar with the Metropolitan Police.

Struhar said that given limited resources, they focus on complaints - generally stemming from late-night foot traffic in residential areas, or noise from parties that charge an entrance fee an offer weed products inside.

Many refer to the D.C. model as providing a gray market for marijuana, Struhar doesn't buy it. "When we investigate these cases, the majority of the time, we find that people are outright selling marijuana," he said.

Those in marijuana-related businesses and law enforcement do agree on this: whether it's how to define gifting, or how to apply a weight limit to marijuana-infused treats, they said Vermont should establish guidelines to sticky legal questions as soon as possible.

Marijuana delivery services are already popping up online in Vermont. Tuesday, we spotted a posting offering to 'give away' marijuana with a delivery fee that's tied to how much you want, and in line with black market prices.

Many of the potential pot entrepreneurs in the state are consulting attorney Tim Fair. He told us common sense will dictate the difference between providing a marijuana gift and selling pot. There can be a bit of markup in product that comes with a gift, but essentially, it should be able to pass the straight face test.

We wanted to ask Vermont Attorney TJ Donovan about how the line should be drawn regarding what's a gift. Over the last few months we made multiple interview requests, and recently offered to submit questions by email. We have not received an answer.

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