Board considers ‘marijuana doggie bag’

Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board has turned down a proposal to allow the equivalent of a ‘marijuana bar’ in Alaska, but the idea isn’t dead yet.

On Thursday in Fairbanks, the board voted 3-2 against a proposal drafted by the staff of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office that would have allowed marijuana consumption in specially permitted stores.

The board later amended the proposal, then voted 4-1 to open the amended idea for public comment, a process that could return the proposed regulation to the board as soon as September.

“So we will need to do more work on this,” said board chairman and Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik.

The original proposal would have allowed a cannabis customer to buy a set amount of marijuana in a sealed container for use in a private home or other private location. The customer would then be able to buy a smaller amount to use specifically at the store.

The idea of in-store consumption is being driven by the spread of private, unregulated marijuana clubs and the need to provide tourists with a place to consume marijuana purchased legally.

“In my experience so far … there’s an incredible amount of people looking to purchase cannabis and looking to consume,” said James Barrett of Juneau.

Barrett testified by phone to the board and said he has seen between 20 and 30 people per day stop by his retail store on Second Street. That store currently sells only apparel, but he said many people are interested in where they can purchase and use marijuana legally.

State law forbids marijuana consumption “in public,” but the state board defines that term and has already approved a definition that would allow regulated in-store consumption.

The consumption could include smokable, drinkable or edible marijuana products.

Board member Mark Springer of Bethel has typically been the swing vote on the five-member board and said the original proposal was a bit too close to the idea of a marijuana bar.

“My desire is to see a space where people can purchase products and consume a legal portion of them, and then leave with the remainder that is held by them in a contained fashion on their departure,” he said.

In a 3-2 vote, the board approved an amendment suggested by Springer that changes the rule so the marijuana used at the store would be taken from the overall retail sale, rather than a separate quota specifically for in-store use.

Retail marijuana is required to be sold in a sealed container, and Springer said during the meeting that he envisions the store having a heat gun or other means to re-seal the container after removing a portion to use in the store.

Assistant attorney general Harriet Milks, the legal adviser to the board, described the amendment as a “provision for a doggie bag” as she testified on the record.

After additional, smaller amendments were made to the original proposal, the board voted to open it to 30 days of public comment before considering it again.

Given the board’s existing schedule, that means the board will not consider in-store marijuana consumption until September.

The board’s current meeting is scheduled to continue today. On its agenda are license approvals for cultivation facilities across the state.

The board is not expected to consider retail licenses until September.

Only when retail stores are approved will marijuana be available for sale.

The board is approving cultivation licenses first in order to ensure a supply of legal marijuana when stores open.

Contact James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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