In November, voters approved a ballot question that allows adults over 21 to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts. It’s still illegal for individuals to sell it, but one salesperson is openly trying to work around the law.
This past week, some ads on the Craigslist page for Western Massachusetts offered “dispensary grade marijuana.” They appeared just days after Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill delaying legal retail sales of marijuana until the middle of 2018.
One of these ads offered sandwich bags containing a gram to just under an ounce of various “strains” for $20 to $325, but it ends with a disclaimer: “I am selling you an empty bag. Marijuana placed In that empty sandwich bag is simply a legal gift.”
But is it?
“The ads are illegal,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said. “It’s illegal to sell marijuana in Massachusetts even with the new ballot initiative.”
The new law does allow legal gifts of up to an ounce, but the gift cannot be advertised to the public.
Section 7. Personal use of marijuana […] (4) giving away or otherwise transferring without remuneration up to 1 ounce of marijuana…to a person 21 years of age or older, as long as the transfer is not advertised or promoted to the public.” — text of ballot question
And Sullivan said pretending to sell a bag is a complete end run around the law.
“To say an empty baggie costs $350 is ridiculous,” he said. “I think it’s a clear fraud on its face.”
Sullivan said he’ll ask police to investigate.
We texted the phone number listed on the Craigslist ad, asking for comment.
The response, from someone who said he was going by the name Corey Hampton, said his friend cards customers to make sure they’re at least 21. And as for the DA’s statement about the ads?
“I just think it’s foolish to waste any more of the taxpayers money on a harmless plant that helps people,” the text read.
But even someone who worked to get the marijuana ballot initiative passed doesn’t support sales like this. Jim Borghesani of the “Yes On 4” coalition said when you regulate marijuana, it means buyers can be assured they’re getting a safe, tested substance and children won’t be able to buy it.
“You need to have somebody who is actually a licensed seller who checks IDs [and] who operates in a licensed facility sell the product,” said Borghesani. “I think it comes down to public safety and — frankly — consumer protection.”
Meanwhile, Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is working to make sure those who sell marijuana legally can deposit their earnings in banks. That would help ensure they pay taxes, bringing marijuana sales clearly into the open.
More transparent than selling plastic bags.
New England Public Radio’s Carrie Healy contributed to this report.