Many of us have been watching things in Alaska as recreational marijuana laws are developed – especially one regulation in particular that was supposed to allow the consumption of cannabis products in dispensaries. However, the Marijuana Control Board was set to make a final decision on those regulations this past week and, after 16 months of planning (and getting many people’s hopes up), they decided to scrap the idea with a 3-2 vote against it.
Originally, when voters decided to legalize adult use of cannabis in Alaska, the law specifically stated no public use of the plant – but as we’ve already seen in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, this leaves no place for tourists or those who live in federally assisted housing to consume their cannabis legally. Alaska had sought out to be the first to address this issue when they decided to define “in public” as pertaining to sidewalks, bars, restaurants, parks, etc. – with the exception of dispensaries with a specific endorsement to allow such activity.
“It will draw a big spotlight on us,” Springer said of the cafe-style regulations. “We don’t want to be waving a red flag in front of federal law enforcement, at least not now.”
Unfortunately, even though everything was pointing them in the direction to move forward with this, the information released to the public 30 days prior to the vote was not entirely accurate – which required them to release the information for another 30 days and delayed the vote another month. It may have had a chance originally, but one board member changed their mind at the last second, citing President Trump’s pick for Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) as a reason to hold off on any form of public consumption for a little while longer.
It was initially those from Juneau and Ketchikan who were pushing for these regulations – being the areas where much of the state’s tourism comes in via cruise ships. If those visiting the state come into a dispensary and legally purchase cannabis, they will now be faced with consuming it illegally wherever they are able, risking fines or even arrest for public consumption.
“We’re going to be selling products to people who have no place to consume it,” said James, whose Rainforest Farms runs a cultivation facility in Lemon Creek as well as a Downtown store.
Many dispensaries already had plans in the works to create a separate area specifically for the consumption of cannabis – a lounge of sorts where people would have been able to freely use marijuana outside of a private residence. Unfortunately, now many are out a great deal of time, effort and funding because of this decision by the Marijuana Control Board. It’s sad to see the state come so close to solving one of the bigger issues surrounding legalization, only to give up on the idea at the very last minute.