Alaska’s marijuana control board has rejected a proposal to allow onsite consumption at licensed pot shops.
The state’s Marijuana Control Board was set to regulate the consumption of marijuana at licensed retailers. If it had been approved, Alaska would have been the first state in the nation to allow onsite consumption.
But that’s now moot. A 3-2 majority voted to shelve the regulations after the control board’s staff said public notices contained errors and a decision would have to be postponed for at least another 30 days.
Control Board member Mark Springer of Bethel said he worried how the feds would react to marijuana consumption in public. Pot remains illegal under federal law.
“We don’t want to draw a whole lot of attention to what is going on in this state with marijuana,” Springer said. “We don’t want a million people getting off a cruise ship in Juneau saying ‘Oh yeah, it’s great we’re going to go over a half-dozen stores and smoke marijuana’ because it will draw a big spot light on us.”
The control board has received dozens of public comments – many of them negative – ahead of its third meeting where it considered the rules. Both Nicholas Miller of Anchorage and Brandon Emmett of Fairbanks – who are on the board as representatives of the industry voted to keep the initative alive.
After the vote, business owners from Alaska’s fledgling legal marijuana industry said they were dismayed by the decision.
“They’re putting everybody in violation that’s gonna be here consuming and it’s sad,” said Tara Bass, owner of The Remedy Shoppe in Skagway, the state’s first licensed retail marijuana store. She said renovations had already been made in anticipation of the new rules.
“We prepared it to be an outdoor consumption area so it would be plenty ventilated and it’s just interesting that they’re not giving people a place to go,” she said.
Cary Carrigan of the 250-member Alaska Marijuana Industry Association said retail outlets will need to regroup and rethink their strategy before bringing the issue back to the board.
“What I’m gonna do is push the membership to put forward solutions,” Carrigan said. “To not just say, ‘I want on-site consumption!’ How do you want it? And how are you going to accomplish that? And how do you make it so it’s not a health concern, so it’s not a public issue, so it’s not something that’s blowing smoke in everybody’s face – so to speak.”
Voters in Alaska approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use for those 21 and over in 2014. But it’s fallen to the five-member Marijuana Control Board to write the regulations of how to manage lawful consumption in the state.
Editor’s note: This decision will affect The Stoney Moose, a proposed cannabis lounge on Ketchikan’s Stedman Street.