New York cannabis regulators issued warnings to dozens of businesses claiming they are illicitly selling cannabis or exploiting provisions that allow “gifting” of marijuana.

Following then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing into law of a recreational marijuana legalization bill last year, it immediately became legal for adults 21 and older to possess and use cannabis in public, but also to gift marijuana to other adults without any form of remuneration.

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is currently establishing the rules and regulations that will govern the state’s legal cannabis market, and it alleges that many businesses are offering marijuana as a “gift” to customers who buy other legal products and services on offer.

OCM issued a press release confirming it had sent cease-and-desist letters to those companies it believes are acting in bad faith and essentially selling cannabis without a license to do so. It warns that if they do not comply, those businesses could be fined and blacklisted from applying for a marijuana business license.

“We want to make sure these operators fully understand the law and the consequences they face and now that these letters have been sent, we fully expect them to cease and desist their activities – if they don’t, we will take action,” said OCM executive director Chris Alexander.

“New York State is building a legal, regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are tested and safe for consumers while providing opportunities for those from communities most impacted by the over-criminalization of the cannabis prohibition, and illegal operations undermine our ability to do that,” he continued. “We encourage New Yorkers to not partake in illicit sales where products may not be safe and we will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have a pathway to sell legally in the new industry.”

New York’s other marijuana regulator, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), reiterated OCB’s statement in its own press release.

“We have an obligation to protect New Yorkers from known risks and to strengthen the foundation of the legal, regulated market we are building,” said Tremaine Wright, CCB chair. “We will meet the goals of the MRTA to build an inclusive, equitable and safe industry. Therefore, these violators must stop their activity immediately, or face the consequences.”

The confusion and gray area concerning marijuana gifting is one that has played out in other states that have legalized adult-use cannabis.

Last summer, New Jersey’s attorney general sent multiple cease-and-desist letters to companies accused of gifting marijuana alongside purchases of other products with inflated price tags.

In Washington, DC, the question of legitimate and illegitimate cannabis gifting has been raised many times since voters approved a ballot measure to legalize marijuana possession and cultivation. However, the measure contained no provisions allowing for legal cannabis sales and the jurisdiction has been prevented from establishing a regulated marijuana market as a result of annually-renewed congressional rider.

As New York cannabis regulators work on the rules and regulations for the state’s forthcoming legal marijuana market, while clamping down on illegitimate gifting, they also recently confirmed a notable expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program.

Doctors will now be able to recommend medical cannabis treatments for any condition they deem fit, rather than being limited to a list of eligible ailments.

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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