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Springfield Shuts Down Shop Distributing Marijuana 'Gifts'

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A Massachusetts shop that authorities say was attempting to skirt the state's new recreational marijuana law by charging an entry fee and giving patrons "free" marijuana samples was shut down Wednesday.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno's administration issued a cease and desist order to Mary Jane Makes Your Heart Sing.

As police officers hand-delivered the order, an audible groan could be heard from a crowd of some 50 people lined up outside the nondescript strip mall storefront Wednesday waiting to gain entry, the Springfield Republican reported.

The newspaper reports the crowd quickly dispersed and no criminal charges were filed against the store operators.

Officials say owner Charles Christian was charging a $20 to $50 entry fee that could be put toward the purchase of store items such as electronic cigarettes, pipes, rolling papers and other smoking paraphernalia. Customers would then depart with a free "gift" of one to three grams of marijuana, or a marijuana-infused chocolate bar.

Christian didn't immediately return emails seeking comment, and the store's voicemail could not accept new messages.

The state's new recreational marijuana law, approved by voters last November, allows residents to possess, grow and exchange limited quantities of the drug so long as no money is involved and the transfer isn't advertised or promoted. Marijuana can't be legally sold or bought until mid-2018, when state-licensed facilities are expected to be operational.

The Springfield operation isn't the first in the state to gain notoriety for attempting to skirt the law.

A western Massachusetts man posted an ad on Craigslist in January selling plastic sandwich bags ranging from $20 to $325. Each bag included a corresponding amount of "free" marijuana.

A startup is also delivering lemonades that cost $55 in the Boston area. The beverages come with a bonus gift of marijuana.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has raised the possibility of a federal crackdown on states that have approved recreational use of marijuana.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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