A vape shop in Malden was shut down after being accused of selling pot when customers asked for a "free gift" with certain purchases, according to Malden Police.
Police say Boston Smoke Shop on Salem Street received a cease and desist order, saying the shop sold tube-shaped containers for a dollar or two that came with pot if you asked for a specific item.
“There Is a Right Way and There Is a Wrong Way. Wrong Way Equals Distribution…”. 🚔 MPD investigates local smoke/vape shop after learning store was selling marijuana under the guise of a “gift”. Search warrant granted and executed.items seizedhttps://t.co/4f0wY91T9p pic.twitter.com/omRqUfOzw5— Malden Police (@MaldenPolice) March 22, 2019
"You have to say, 'I’m here, I want to buy the item with the free gift,'" Malden Police Sergeant Michael Powell said.
An undercover investigator discovered that the pre-rolled blunts and THC cartridges weren't so free after all.
Powell said if you asked for a "free gift" with your purchase of the tube, you'd get a pre-rolled blunt with the $18 purchase of a plastic tube, or a half-gram of THC oil revealed from a hidden case and handed over with the $38 rechargeable battery.
"Would pay $38 for this," Powell said. "In addition to this $38 battery, they would gift you this item."
According to police, the store thought, since marijuana is recreationally legal in the state, calling the pot "free" meant they were not "selling" it and were within their bounds.
However, legal experts, including the Walpole Police chief who is on the state's marijuana commission, determined the shop was breaking the law.
"The transactions were sham transactions," Powell said. "The way the law is written, this is illegal."
Boston Smoke Shop issued the following statement on Thursday:
"Nearly a year ago, Boston Smoke Shop raised concerns with a local public health official about the widespread practice of gifting marijuana and THC products in 21+ smoke/vape shops throughout Greater Boston. We were told the issue would be raised with appropriate authorities, and that we would receive advice on how to proceed. That clarification never came and the practice only grew more prevalent: not only in adults-only stores like ours, but convenience stores and other retail operations.
If regulators and government officials are now ready to clarify whether the state's gifting provision applies to retail stores, Boston Smoke Shop welcomes the opportunity, as we did one year ago, to help provide that clarity for the hundreds of affected businesses across the state."
Police said an adult can legally give another adult up to an ounce of weed, but the gifting provision forbids promotion or any transfer of money.
"They circumvent the whole chain of events," Malden Police Captain Marc Gatcomb said. "This whole state cannabis commission and local ordinances are there to protect."
THC cartridges, pre-rolled blunts & thousands of dollars — Malden Police say a local business was making an illegal profit by wheeling & dealing “free” pot to customers #Boston25 at 10 & 11 pic.twitter.com/SIwgWfrkPH— Drew Karedes (@DrewKaredes) March 22, 2019
Officers took $3,500 worth of the tubes and THC oils from the store Thursday, and the two known employees of the smoke shop trained on the tactic could face drug distribution charges.
"I would equate it to going to a local convenience store and paying for a cup that’s worth 10 cents, and they're making homemade moonshine that you don’t know what’s in it," Gatcomb said.
Police said marijuana gifting business flies under the radar without the 20% tax, and the strict, mandated inspections that dispensaries have to go through, which test for pesticides or other chemicals.
Coincidentally, the Malden Cannabis Board met for the first time Wednesday to take applications for recreational marijuana shops in the city.
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