In Seattle, cannabis delivery is not really a thing. Well, at least not legal cannabis. There was a time, in the loosely regulated era of Washington State’s old medical cannabis system, when bike messengers would bring you weed anywhere in the city at a moment’s notice. People marveled at the modern convenience of it all.
Then, the legal system arrived, with tight restrictions in place. For a while, the two systems coexisted in an uneasy truce. However, legal cannabis operators were not thrilled about the fact that a bunch of scruffy bike messengers were riding around delivering low-priced, tax-free weed, while retail cannabis suffered from high prices and restricted locations. In fact, many legal cannabis operators weren’t too thrilled with the medical system in general and successfully lobbied to shut it down, via the Cannabis Patient Protection Act of 2015.
The legal system’s retailers also lobbied the city attorney, Pete Holmes, to do something about the pseudo-legal cannabis delivery services. Holmes obliged, working with the Seattle Police Department to orchestrate a sting operation that sent a clear message to the city’s remaining “gray market” weed dealers. As a result, the last stalwarts stopped holding out.
Thus, when a post popped up on my Twitter feed urging me to stop paying “ridiculous” prices at the store, listing a $160 ounce of XXX OG, and offering Seattle-area delivery, I was more than a little surprised. The fact that the tweet had reached me via Twitter’s promotion feature raised my eyebrow even further, as it seemed pretty audacious to promote a tweet advertising illegal activity. I clicked through to the account behind the tweet and discovered that it was the only one of its ilk. It was pretty clearly a personal account, and the rest of the tweets were about Bitcoin. Who was this mysterious, cryptocurrency-loving cannabis delivery guy, I wondered?
Naturally, I got in touch. He wasn’t interested in speaking on the record, but he also didn’t think he was doing anything illegal. Thanks to changes made under Washington’s most recent cannabis omnibus bill, SB 5131, it’s finally legal for adults to share cannabis among themselves. He was just sharing his stash, he said, and the prices were just suggested donations. Fittingly, you’re welcome to make one in Bitcoin.
As the age-old saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Not being a legal expert myself, just a guy who is reasonably sure that when a statute allows sharing it means you can’t get money for it, I decided to ask a few experts. Dan Nolte, the Seattle City Attorney’s communications director, told Herb that while their office only interprets the law for their clients, “maybe you wanted to check out this Revised Code of Washington statute and note the word ‘noncommercial’ and draw your own conclusions?”
Indeed, state law dictates that people giving pot to other people do it, “for non-commercial purposes and not conditioned upon or done in connection with the provision or receipt of financial consideration.” Daniel Shortt, an attorney with the cannabis-centric law firm Harris Bricken, said donations were definitely not exempt from that.
“If he’s bringing this and delivering it to people for literally no money then…maybe,” he said. “But again, without reviewing his business model, just calling something a donation doesn’t really do much work.”
If that was the case, he pointed out, why would anyone ever report anything as a sale? Why not start a personal foundation, and take your salary as a tax-free annual gift?
“Just because you share a beer with your friend, it doesn’t mean you’re a bar,” Shortt joked. Also, state law only allows people to pass their friends a half ounce or less so that $160 ounce of XXX OG wouldn’t fly anyway!
If you care about buying cannabis legally, you still can’t get it delivered in Seattle. Not even if you’re “donating”. That said, there still exists a market for buying weed outside the legal framework with Bitcoin. While we don’t encourage it, just make sure to use Wickr, I guess?