Drugs, guns, cash, oh my! How to keep nontraditional holiday gifts legal

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There’s nothing wrong with gifts like a wallet, perfume or even cozy slippers — for some people. But those who think outside the conventional department store box may be curious about the legality of some more offbeat gifts. From cash to cannabis to chardonnay, we present four nontraditional gifts and the lowdown on keeping them legal.

#1 Marijuana


The key to keeping a gift of pot legal is following some basic rules.

  • Buy it from a licensed marijuana-selling establishment, not the guy on the street corner. If the sale of marijuana is not legal in your state, you’re out of luck.
  • Assuming it is permitted, verify how much you can legally buy or gift. In Colorado, for instance, it is legal to possess one ounce or less. In Oregon, you can legally possess a whopping eight ounces.
  • Make sure both the giver and receiver are older than 21.
  • Don’t even think about mailing the gift, whether via the Postal Service or a private carrier like UPS. The mailing of marijuana — anywhere — is a federal offense.
  • Stay within state lines. If you are driving with your pot gift from a state where the substance is legal to one where it is not, you may be at risk for drug charges if your car is stopped and searched. Flying is also a no-go as all airports are federal property and, therefore, pot is illegal in all.

#2 Guns


With thousands of gun laws on state and federal books, it will behoove you to do your homework before gifting a firearm.

  • Ensure that the gun’s recipient is over the legal age in your state (typically age 18).
  • Purchase the gun through a licensed firearm dealer so proper background checks can be completed.
  • If you’re transferring ownership of a gun rather than purchasing a new one, check your state’s regulations. Some states such as New York and California also require you to transfer ownership through a gun dealer even if the recipient is a family member. If the recipient lives out of state, you’ll have to transfer it through a gun dealer in that person’s state of residence.
  • To mail a firearm legally, check with the Postal Service and private mail carriers, as there are numerous restrictions. For instance, the Postal Service will ship a long gun but not a handgun. 

#3 Alcohol


According to Wine Spectator it’s illegal to ship wine across the borders of nearly 25 states. So before you start wrapping bottles, consider the following:

  • For the most up-to-date information regarding shipping wine across borders, check with the winery or liquor store from which you are purchasing the alcohol.
  • Be aware that some states have reciprocal shipping laws. For example, if you find a beer that you love in New Mexico and want to ship it to your cousin in Idaho, that’s allowed as the two states have a reciprocal shipping arrangement. Your sister in New York, however, will be out of luck.
  • Even where shipping of alcohol across state lines is legal, some states will put a cap on how much you can send in a year.
  • And just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s doable. Some private mail carriers, like FedEx, may not want the responsibility of shipping alcohol between consumers as opposed to licensed retailers.

#4 Cash


Benjamins make a great gift, but keep these tips in mind:

  • If you keep your gifts to $14,000 or less per recipient per year, they are tax-free according to the IRS. For example, if you’re married and want to give your nondependent son a cash gift, you can give him $14,000, and your spouse can give him another $14,000, all tax free.
  • Also tax-free are gifts between husbands and wives and those made to charities or political organizations. We’ll cover the tax implications of charity and political donations in an upcoming article.

Photos: Shutterstock

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