In what could end up being the first test case of illicit cannabis operations in a post-legalization New Mexico, a business “gifting” cannabis has caught the attention of state regulators.
According to KVIA-TV, the state’s Cannabis Control Division sent a cease and desist letter to a Las Cruces business called Speak Easy after it was discovered that the business was giving away cannabis with the purchase of a sticker.
In the letter, the Cannabis Control Division concluded that the price of said stickers matched the value of the cannabis being gifted and therefore is illegal.
“Additional media stories have been published by other media outlets in the Las Cruces, New Mexico, area likewise recounting the ‘gifting’ of cannabis products by Speak Easy to involve a purchase being made by a customer and the quantity of the ’gift’ of cannabis products provided by Speak Easy being tied to the dollar value of the purchase made by the customer,” the letter stated. A lawyer representing Speak Easy told KVIA-TV that the business is operating within the law and that gifting cannabis is still an “unsettled area of law.”
A spokesperson for the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the Cannabis Control Division, previously told NM Political Report that there are two sections in law that address giving away cannabis.
The Cannabis Control Act, which went into effect on June 29 of this year defines trafficking as “the distribution, sale, barter or giving away of cannabis products,” but in a separate section, the law states that adults 21 years of age or older can gift cannabis to another adult as long as there is no compensation. Further complicating the issue, sanctioned sales of adult-use cannabis will not start until sometime next year, and the gifted cannabis has to be obtained through legal means.
It’s unclear whether Speak Easy and its lawyer will challenge the cease and desist letter, but the issue might be brought to the Legislature for further clarification.
When NM Political Report asked RLD about trafficking versus gifting, Heather Brewer, a spokesperson with the department said the issue may require tweaks to the law.
“Our understanding is that the legislators’ intent was to allow for gifts of legally purchased cannabis to someone legally allowed to possess cannabis and to prevent the giving away of cannabis, without a license,” Brewer said. “If it turns out that this language is sufficiently vague as to create actual confusion in the enforcement of the law, it might be worth the Legislature going back and clarifying the language.”
Duke Rodriguez, the president and CEO of the prominent medical cannabis producer Ultra Health, told NM Political Report that he visited Speak Easy earlier this week and purchased a $15 sticker. He said he was given one gram of cannabis, which he promptly threw away.