The last frontier could be the one of the first to open to cannabis consumption at dispensaries.
Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board has endorsed the idea of onsite consumption.
With the winds of tourism blowing its sails, the idea of public consumption in Alaskan dispensaries is now open to public comment for 60 days from the Aug. 21 endorsement. Pending expected public approval, folks will be able to light up one gram at a time.
We asked the Marijuana Policy Project’s Senior Legislative Counsel Chris Lindsey if Alaskan dispensaries had a chance to be sparking up before Californians cross their fingers on the recreational sales timeline.
“I would expect that there is little to prevent the state from rolling it out right away,” Lindsey said in regard to the timelines. “As a practical matter, they will have missed tourist season by then, and that is what is really driving the debate there.”
Lindsay believes it to be most likely that Alaska will pass something in October or November, and issue onsite consumption licenses in time for tourist season in 2018, which is to say early spring.
The nation’s oldest marijuana reform organization applauded the progress in Alaska.
“If states like Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and others are going to allow adults 21 and up to purchase recreational marijuana, it only makes sense to provide a legally defined space in which they can consume their legal product,” said NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji.
As for the one gram limit on purchases, Mahmalji thinks Alaska regulators are just playing it safe.
“I have to assume that by not allowing concentrates and only providing low-dose edibles and imposing purchase limits on flower, regulators with Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board are being extra cautious in regard to how much THC can be ingested at any given time,” he said.
There are plenty of rules for the Alaskan onsite consumption program. The always popular disposable vape pen will not be for sale in lounges as they are filled with cannabis concentrates. Concentrates are banned in places where you can consume cannabis flowers. Edibles will be limited to 10 milligrams, a fairly anecdotal number thrown around in recent years. Any marijuana purchased for consumption will not be able to leave the facility and you have to buy it there. Finally, no blunts will be allowed. While one gram is skinny anyway, tobacco is banned from being consumed in the dispensaries.
Denver, Colorado has led the way in the U.S. when it comes to onsite consumption. Last year Denver voters approved the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program Initiative, better known as I-300. I-300 allowed businesses like restaurants and coffee shops that already exist to apply for separate indoor areas in their facility where folks could consume edibles and pot vapor. Unlike Alaska, I-300 was combustion-free with no smoking allowed. The Colorado legislature has recently come up with a regulation plan in response to the initiative.
California permits for onsite consumption are coming down the road, but regulations must come from the local level where folks are still waiting for guidance from the state. Due to the continued wait for something concrete on the state regulations, many cities and towns haven’t really approached the issue according to California NORML’s Dale Gieringer. Communities like Oakland and San Francisco are among those expected to license onsite consumption.
In Oregon, there is also still some work to be done to achieve onsite cannabis consumption, according to Portland-based advocate Sam Chapman, who authored the law that legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in 2013.
“The goal between now and the upcoming session is to work closely with county health departments to determine what legitimate concerns they have so we can address them in future legislation,” said Chapman. “We came close to passing meaningful legislation last session. Our hope is that they recognize this fact and are willing to work with the cannabis industry to craft sensible regulations that keep public safety as the number one priority.”
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