JUNEAU, Alaska — The state of Alaska is working to finalize rules that will help govern its legal marijuana trade, but some industry supporters say a proposed ban on on-site consumption flies in the face of an initiative approved by voters last year.
Regulations being considered by the state Marijuana Control Board also would ban marijuana social clubs, allow local governments to protest license applications for marijuana establishments and set a serving-size potency limit for edibles lower than the limit in Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize recreational pot.
The latter issue drew comments from medical marijuana users, some of whom take higher dosages, and from some who think it impractical to expect people to have to buy and consume more brownies, cookies or other items to get a buzz.
The board is scheduled to meet Friday to consider possible amendments and work toward adopting rules ahead of a Tuesday deadline.
Alaska voters last November approved legalizing recreational use of pot by those 21 and older. The initiative banned public consumption but did not define "public."
Regulators approved an emergency definition as the law was taking effect barring consumption "in a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access." The initiative sponsor group sees that as restrictive — seemingly even barring pot consumption at weddings or office parties — and notes language elsewhere in the initiative that it says gives private property owners and establishments significant rights.
"People are going to come here and want to purchase marijuana in retail stores and just like other states, like Colorado, are finding out, if you don't give people a place to consume it, they're going to end up consuming it in public or in unauthorized locations, hotel rooms or whatever," Tim Hinterberger, a sponsor of the Alaska initiative, said in an interview. "It does seem like it's going to have to be part of the long-term plan of the whole marijuana industry."
The initiative group, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, argues the Marijuana Control Board has the authority to create different types of retail establishment licenses and allow certain classes of stores that let patrons consume on site. In written comments to the board, Hinterberger said the initiative included the ability for owners of private establishments to prohibit or allow marijuana use or possession, subject to the authority of the state and local government.
"In light of the purpose of the measure in establishing rights for private property owners, such a license is essential" to the board's duties, Hinterberger wrote.
Harriet Dinegar Milks, an assistant attorney general serving as counsel to the board, said the initiative set out four specific license types: for cultivation, testing and product manufacturing facilities and for retail stores. "There's nothing in any of this that suggests that a licensed facility where you can consume on site was contemplated as part of the initiative," she said.
The board has expressed a desire for the Legislature to look at the issue, she said.
The board has proposed a cultivator broker license, which isn't specified in the initiative, but Dinegar Milks said it's a subset of the cultivator license.
In Colorado, where legalization in 2012 banned pot use in public and in bars, marijuana tourists and activists have complained the limits are too restrictive and have prompted an explosion in people ticketed for smoking pot on sidewalks and in public parks.
Washington and Oregon, which approved legalized pot last November, also ban public use.
It is still illegal to buy marijuana in the state; under the initiative, the board won't begin accepting applications for business licenses until February.