Monday, October 5, 2015

Legalizing Marijuana in Alaska - Continued


As noted in a November post from last year and followed up in February of this year, Alaska is struggling with its legalization of marijuana. Medical pot has been legal since 1998. However, use by your average Smokin’ Joe Schmuckatelli remained illegal until voters passed Ballot Measure Number 2 last November. There was great doobie-lation by those who favored legalization, but as soon as the smoke cleared it quickly became evident things would not progress quickly, or smoothly.


Private use and growing were not legal until February, but the rules were simple: private individuals can possess up to one ounce of pot and can grow up to six plants, provided only three are flowering (mature). However, as the law states, “Cultivation shall be in a location where plants are not subject to public view without use of binoculars, aircraft, or other optical aids.” Guess there’s concern about bud envy. 

To say the very least, the legal marijuana trade in Alaska has experienced some growing pains over the past year.


First, exactly who was going to oversee the cannabis commerce had to be decided. Regulation was initially assigned to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC). The ABC’s first move was to issue a temporary emergency regulation on where weed consumption was allowed by defining the word “public.” Once that definition and regulation was passed, ABC quickly abandoned ship and the Marijuana Control Board (MCB) was established. Adopting the temporary “public” regulation as permanent was the first official act of MCB… sort of. In some manner or fashion that I think most people missed, MCB indicated they would adopt it. Being temporary, it was set to expire in June, but  it wasn’t officially adopted until October. (You know how it is… the whole marijuana thing gives people problems with time perception. Meh. Better late than never.)

Set to expire in June '15 - better late than never.


Okay, so why did ABC pass the joint to MCB? The logic behind creating a separate control board was explained by ABC Director Cynthia Franklin, “Theoretically, those industries could be competing industries. They might be competing for the same ‘altered state’ dollars.” Oddly enough, however, ABC and MCB share staff, most notably Director Franklin. Oh, and did I mention ABC had enough ideas to pass along proposed regulations for marijuana?  


So, in May the law authorizing the MCB was officially signed, and MCB was given a pile of proposed regulations for commercial marijuana production and sales. They were also given a deadline of November 24 to rewrite the regulations, put them out for public comment and then officially adopt them. Things are going right down to the wire. But should MBC fail to get the regs out there is a Plan B: If the state fails to produce the regulations by November 24, local governments are going to magically produce their own regulations. 

“D’oh! We couldn’t get the regs ready. We have to fall back to Plan B: home-grown rules.”


Frankly, I’m beginning to think there’s been quite a bit of private use going on in Juneau.

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