Marijuana becomes legal in Alaska. Now what?

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Monday, February 23, 2015 11:27pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Questions to ponder as Alaska legalizes marijuana:

 

How did this happen?

Alaskans voted 53-47 percent in November to legalize marijuana use by adults in non-public places. Possession and transportation of up to an ounce of marijuana, and growing up to six plants, half of which can be mature, is legal as of Feb. 24. The state has nine more months to create regulations for a commercial marijuana industry whose pot will be sold and taxed.

 

But wasn’t pot already legal in Alaska?

Yes and no. A 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision protected residents with small amounts of pot in their homes from prosecution. But state lawmakers twice criminalized any possession at all.

 

Where can I buy it?

You can’t, legally, and won’t be able to, for months to come. Retail sales likely won’t begin until May 2016; some lawmakers are pushing for further delays.

 

But how can I get it?

Through a green thumb, or a good friend. The law allows people to keep all the marijuana produced by as many as six plants, and to give it away without state penalty.

 

Who makes the rules?

The Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is responsible for regulations for now, but with pot already legal to grow, have and use, some lawmakers seemed a bit dazed and confused about next steps.

 

Local control

Despite Alaska’s constitutionally protected privacy rights, many communities ban alcohol even inside private homes. Some worry the initiative will bring marijuana in where alcohol has been kept out.

 

Where can I smoke it?

Not in “public,” but what that does that mean? Some state laws define it as schools, parks, prisons, businesses, and in general, anywhere accessible to “the public or a substantial group of persons.” But jurisdictions are already disagreeing on the definition when it comes to marijuana.

 

Can Alaskans pack it in?

Marijuana is already legal in Washington state and Colorado, and supporters are taking aim now at California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. But getting drugs to Alaska almost always requires federally-regulated transportation or shipment, so that means growing it at home for now.

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