(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)

(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)

Ketchikan’s Marijuana Advisory Committee learned a little Monday about some commercial marijuana regulations proposed by state officials.

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Director Chris French told the seven-member committee that the new Alaska Marijuana Control Board has been established, and its first meeting likely will be in early July.

In the meantime, the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board has temporary powers over marijuana regulations, and has its first set of proposals almost ready for public review.

“It’s supposed to be out for public comment at the end of this week,” French said. “There will be a 30-day comment period. I would think that this first set of regulations won’t be up for a vote of the Marijuana Control Board or ABC Board, whoever is in place, probably until that Aug. 13 meeting.”

That first set of regulations will cover local control options. A second set later on will deal with products, and the last set will cover licensing requirements. The state needs to have regulations in place by Nov. 24.

Regarding local options, French said the proposed regulations allow communities to opt out of allowing retail marijuana businesses. Each governing body would have to vote separately, though. For example, if the Ketchikan City Council and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough both voted to ban pot sales, the City of Saxman could still vote to allow that kind of business.

French said communities also would be allowed to establish their own excise taxes in addition to the state’s $50 per ounce tax. Local governments can’t, however, choose to ban the sale of marijuana products, such as concentrates or edibles, without banning all pot sales outright.

French said he asked the ABC Board executive director about that, specifically, and the legal opinion is that the definition of marijuana in the ballot initiative legalizing that substance covers TCH products.

“There have been some attorneys … that have disputed that,” he said. “Her determination would be that if a local government were to ban edibles, they would be open for legal challenge. Based on the numbers in terms of sales for edibles compared to other types of marijuana, you most likely would be sued, because marijuana sales are typically 50 percent edibles.”

THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. It’s possible to extract and concentrate THC, and then either sell it in the concentrated form or add it to food items, such as cookies or candy.

French said the state will propose limits on how much THC is allowed per serving of any product, and will regulate the packaging for edible products to make them less attractive to children. Child-proof packaging also is an option.

Committee Member Sylvia Banie, representing Saxman, asked whether the community could start small and see how it goes before allowing the industry to expand.

“One commercial place, it’ll be at such a place, this is what they can start with, and then as it grows, we can put more stuff into it,” she explained.

French responded: “You can’t control what products they sell. Certainly, you can control how many businesses are allowed.”

French said the proposed state regulations allow local governments to decide the number of licenses for commercial marijuana operations.

Committee members didn’t make any decisions Monday. They agreed to meet again at noon on May 27. And, because that first set of proposed state regulations will be out at that point, they’ll have plenty to talk about.