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Alaska’s Marijuana Regulators Try to Determine How On-site Cannabis Consumption Will Work for Dispensaries

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Things are well on their way in Alaska as far as setting up their new legal marijuana industry – the applications for licensing have been approved by the board and will be available to those interested in applying for a license as soon as the end of the month.

Those looking to open up shop in Alaska know that they have a unique opportunity – but as of right now there is no guarantee on how that opportunity will work. A few months ago, Alaska approved allowing on-site consumption of marijuana at dispensaries – but this is a very general idea and now they are trying to come up with a reasonable solution.

This week the Alaska Marijuana Control Board discussed different possible scenarios that could work for on-site consumption. Their main concern is additional liability to shop owners if the amount of cannabis consumed cannot be regulated – which lead them to two different scenarios that seem most likely to happen (as of now).

The first possibility would be to have two counters – one where individuals purchasing cannabis to take home and consume could buy larger quantities and have a larger selection – and a second where individuals would be served from a specific list of products available to consume on-site to be served by an employee in a similar fashion to a bar.

“Perhaps we would look at having a limited set of products” available to on-site consumers, said board member Bruce Schulte. Controlling the amounts sold for on-site consumption could help with some of the liability that business owners face, assuage local government fears and address possible concerns by insurance providers, he said.

The idea didn’t have universal support. Board member Mark Springer said he didn’t envision two separate counters, one for buying only marijuana used in the store and the other for cannabis to take home. 

The second possibility would be to have only one single counter to purchase any products and having a separate area for consumption. So you would buy the amount you would normally to take home, maybe a little extra, and then you would have the option to consume in a “lounge” type area of the shop designated for smoking, vaping, etc.

Other concerns that factored into how this will be set up included ensuring proper ventilation – smoke and vapor hanging around isn’t a good thing, so a good filtration system will be necessary. The board also unanimously turned down the idea of “happy hour” offering marijuana at a discounted price (a decision I think should have been left to dispensary owners, honestly…).

At this point, it was all just a discussion and brainstorming kind of session to try and determine the best way to handle this situation. The first round of license applications are expected by March 16th, the state’s seed-to-sale system should be up and running by May 23rd and the board should be ready to approve the first dispensaries by September.

There are a lot of things being done right in Alaska right now – and I think on-site consumption is one of the biggest differences between their program and those in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. It may take them a while to get it all up and running – but in the end I think it will be well worth the wait for Alaskan residents and visitors alike.

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