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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Peter Bernard's Yuletide plans include dressing up in a tuxedo emblazoned with marijuana leaves, donning a green Santa hat and doling out cookie bars made with marijuana to his friends from a big pillowcase.
"That's me exercising my right to give marijuana this Christmas," said Bernard, a Taunton, Massachusetts, pot lover who heads the Massachusetts Growers Advocacy Council when not doubling as "Pot Santa" at events for weed enthusiasts.
Not everyone's plans are quite so flamboyant, but for many pot lovers, this Christmas is much more about reefer than wreaths. Gift-giving has long been a part of marijuana culture, and the drug's newly legal status is a source of Yuletide celebration in four states.
For others, trouble with the law has killed the holiday buzz. A couple was arrested in Nebraska, on Tuesday with about 60 pounds of marijuana in their pickup truck they told police they planned to give as Christmas gifts.
The couple, 70-year-old Barbara Jiron and 80-year-old Patrick Jiron, told authorities they were traveling from California to Vermont and were unaware it was illegal to transport marijuana in Nebraska. Court records didn't list attorneys for them.
Marijuana is still illegal in most states, but voters in California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana last year, and some residents of those states will legally stuff stockings with spliffs for the first time this Christmas.
Because retail sales are operating in only one of those states — Nevada — Bernard and others excited about legalized pot said homegrown marijuana is one particularly popular gift.
"I figure, I've got all this pot, I might as well just give it away for Christmas," said James MacWilliams, of Portland, Maine, who started growing weed when it became legal and is giving away fancy jars of his stash this year. "I told my friends, you're all getting a little bit of pot for Christmas."
Others plan to give marijuana-infused baked goods or even decorations made of pot plants.
Statistics about legal sales of marijuana suggest a modest bump around the holidays. In the four states where it was already legal, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, it has been "generally a good month," slightly ahead of November and January, said Roy Bingham, chief executive officer of BDS Analytics, a firm that compiles data about the pot industry. December sales accounted for 9.38 percent of sales revenue in Colorado last year, which is one percentage point above average, according to statistics provided by the firm.
California's retail laws begin next month, while Massachusetts' retail laws are scheduled for July and Maine's are still being developed.
Legalization means pot lovers can legally do something they've always done, which is give away marijuana to people they love, said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
"People consume cannabis on the holidays and they always have," Smith said. "Now they are doing so through a regulated system."
The drug remains illegal on the federal level, which means activities such as driving it across state lines or sending it through the mail are off limits. Authorities will deal with incidents involving marijuana in interstate commerce "on a case by case basis," said Matthew O'Shaughnessy, a Boston-based spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said marijuana was likely to be a part of Christmas in California this year whether it was legal or not.
"Cannabis has been pretty ubiquitous here for several generations," he said. "Honestly, I think everyone's just a little more open about it."
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