In states with legal adult-use cannabis, “gifting” weed is totally permissible. In fact, gifting emerged as a kind of stop-gap measure for states that had legalized possession and use but had not set up a legal, regulated retail system. With selling cannabis still illegal, but possessing and using it legal, gifting gave people a legal way to exchange cannabis.
But things became complicated when California passed the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), or Prop. 64. When that law took effect in January this year, it put in place some new rules about gifting cannabis that prevented dispensaries from giving away weed for free. And that eliminated something that had been taking place in California for years: compassionate care donations to medical cannabis patients.
California Dispensaries Could Soon Make Compassionate Care Donations to Patients
A new bill, however, is aiming to get rid of the new restriction. California SB-829, a cannabis donations bill, would amend the AUMA to allow dispensaries to give away cannabis for free. After passing the state Senate in late April, the bill has been going through a series of revisions in the Assembly. If the Legislature approves the bill, which they have until Friday to do, it will head to Gov. Jerry Brown. In short, SB-829 is in the final stages of becoming a law. And if/when it does, it will take effect immediately.
So what specifically does the bill amend? It changes the Business and Professions Code to allow retail shops to donate cannabis under certain conditions. Currently, retail dispensaries with licenses under the AUMA are legally barred from providing free cannabis good to any person. They can’t even allow individuals who aren’t affiliated with the dispensary give away weed on the shop’s premises.
Certain medical retailers and other micro-businesses, however, can obtain special licenses to give away medical cannabis products to medical patients. And SB-829 would simply extend those privileges to retail dispensaries—with a few exceptions.
Not Every Dispensary Can Give Away Free Weed
It’s important to understand that SB-827 won’t simply give dispensaries carte blanche to hand out whatever to whoever. (Although that could lead to some pretty awesome promotional giveaways.)
Rather, the bill’s intention is to allow dispensaries to make compassionate care donations to medical patients, especially low-income people and folks with limited access to medical cannabis. It’s similar to a medical supply company making donations to a hospital. Only here, dispensaries can make donations directly to patients in critical need. And that’s key because the restrictions have forced some patients to seek illicit “black market” donations.
This means that retail dispensaries that have a license under the AUMA can make donations. They don’t have to be medical dispensaries with that particular license. They can give away medical cannabis on the premises. And they can deduct the value of the donations on their tax returns.
However, the cannabis products that retail dispensaries donate will have to meet the requirements of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). Which means that the only people who will be eligible to receive free weed are medical cannabis patients or licensed caregivers.
Dispensaries often have surplus products or inventory they’d be happy to donate to patients in need. And if this bill becomes law, they’ll be able to do that once again.