One of the most anticipated parts of Alaska’s soon-to-be-open cannabis industry is a provision that allows on-site consumption in certain retail stores. Out of all four states and D.C. to have legalized marijuana for recreational use, Alaska is the only one which has approved on-site consumption in any form – though “public use” is still banned outside of these locations.
“I think that we would be doing a disservice to the public if we did not have cannabis cafes,” said board member Brandon Emmett of Fairbanks, who represents industry concerns on the five-member panel.
After months of creating the regulations that would govern the cannabis industry, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board has finally approved a first draft of regulations surrounding potential cannabis cafes. They voted unanimously to allow the first draft to become available for public comment, which would take place sometime in the next couple of weeks. After that period is over, the board will vote on the regulations once again and either approve them or go back to the drawing board.
So far, the regulations they have set forth are extremely reasonable, especially considering these are the first laws of their kind in the United States. The process starts with stores with existing retail licenses to apply for an endorsement, which, if granted, allows them to operate a more or less cannabis café of sorts on the premise, but in a separate area from the rest of the shop.
Currently, the setup would have to be a separate room, with a separate door and ventilation system as well as staff specifically to oversee that part of the shop. Customers would be allowed to choose items off of a limited “menu” and will have a very different purchasing limit than customers shopping only in the retail end of the shop.
Owners could not hold contests to give away marijuana or offer “happy hour” style discounts and they will also be responsible for not serving already intoxicated guests. Most of these regulations are in place in hopes of preventing things such as stoned driving from being much of an issue. How responsible a “budtender” could be for anything that happens once a patron leaves the shop is not necessarily clear, but that will likely come up in public comment.
“In other cities around the planet — like Amsterdam, some places in Spain and Morocco where consumption is legal — they haven’t seen the sort of social ills that have been associated with alcohol,” said Emmett, noting he can’t speak to the will of other board members. “Here in Alaska, we’ll be able to implement that policy responsibly.”
As far as I can tell, they are doing their best to make sure that they are being as responsible as possible, while allowing a legal place for people to gather and enjoy cannabis – something very few places and no single state aside from Alaska has decided to do. There was clearly a lot of thought put into how to make cannabis cafes work for them and they were open enough to embrace them in the first place. If it works out for them, you can bet other states will soon follow suit.