Alaska Moves to Approve On-Site Marijuana Use

On Nov. 20, 2015, the Alaskan Marijuana Control Board voted 3-2 in favor of an amendment that would allow the on-site use of marijuana at retail stores. The amendment was part  of a larger body of rules that would govern the marijuana industry from seed to sale.

To many, this vote is a surprise reversal of policy from the board as the regulatory body has been grappling with the issue of public marijuana use for months.

Board members felt that the board did not have the authority to allow marijuana clubs. Under the law, there are only four types of licenses for marijuana businesses: cultivation, retail, testing and manufacturing.

In order to allow for marijuana clubs, a new license would have to be created, a power that the board does not have. However, the board does have the power to prevent the spread of such clubs, which is exactly what it tried to do throughout the regulatory process.

The board even went so far as to introduce regulations that would ban marijuana clubs completely. But public outcry and fierce opposition from the marijuana industry has forced the board to become more open to finding a solution to the regulatory issue instead of passing it off to the legislature.

By allowing marijuana use at retail stores, regulators could prevent having to come up with a different licensing scheme and the board could stay within its regulatory limits. The next step in the regulatory process is to have the final regulations reviewed and approved by the Department of Law.

From there, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has until Feb. 24, 2016, to file the final regulations. After that, the Marijuana Control Board will being accepting applications for licenses and the regulations should take effect on March 25.

If the regulations are approved, Alaska would become the first state in the country to allow for public use of marijuana. Although Washington and Colorado were the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana, both states have been reluctant to allow for marijuana social clubs or bars.

Like Alaska, Oregon neither bans nor allows marijuana social clubs. but inevitably the state will have to confront the issue sooner or later.

It is important to note that the new rules as they stand now will not be the final word on marijuana use. Board Director Cynthia Franklin told the Associated Press that current rules are just a holding place and that a new round of regulations will detail the specifics of on-site consumption.

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