Marijuana legalization is here, regs in flux

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Monday, April 6, 2015 10:24pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers continue to work on bills related to the legalization of marijuana even though pot became legal earlier this year. The session is scheduled to end April 19:

Isn’t marijuana already legal?

Limited recreational marijuana became legal Feb. 24 after Alaskans approved a vote initiative in November. Residents can possess and transport up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

So what’s happening now?

Lawmakers have several marijuana-related bills moving through the process, and less than two weeks to pass them. The one that’s received the most attention is the crime bill. Another would create a new marijuana control board to draft regulations for a new commercial industry. A third defines the role municipalities play in regulating businesses locally, and also further regulates some aspects of personal use.

What’s in the crime bill?

The marijuana crime bill passed by the Senate would keep marijuana on the state’s list of controlled substances, but allow people to have 1 ounce of pot. The bill make delivery of marijuana for sale a crime. It also prohibits a commercial or retail marijuana industry in areas where there is no organized borough or municipality.

What can a community do?

The voters gave local governments the ability to regulate some aspects of marijuana in each community. Some like Anchorage, the state’s largest city, have crafted their own regulations related to marijuana, while others are waiting for the Legislature to finish its work. A bill that has passed the state House, but must still make its way through the Senate, would clarify that municipalities can help regulate various marijuana businesses, or prohibit them, and would also allow establish villages to do so. Although the initiative intended to allow any community to opt out, the language doesn’t do that, so some form of the bill must pass in order for villages to prohibit a local marijuana industry.

What about buying pot?

Sales still aren’t legal, so for now you can only get high with a little help from a friend— or the marijuana fairy, as some lawmakers call it. The House and Senate each have a bill that would create a new marijuana control board that would help regulate a new commercial marijuana industry. The state is already soliciting names for a five-member board that would share staff and resources with the state alcohol board, and include representatives from rural Alaska, the public health sector, public safety sector, and the new industry. If the bill doesn’t pass, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will be responsible for writing the new regulations instead. Those have to be finished in November, with the first business licenses expected to be handed out by May 2016.

Why haven’t the bills passed?

Lawmakers started with a focus on the crime bill, with an eye toward passing it before legalization day in February. But it wound up taking several drafts, and entirely different legalization strategies in different committees, before finally passing the Senate in late March. Although work has progressed on the other bills, much of the Legislature’s attention this session has been on the budget and the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit.

What if nothing passes?

Some components of the bills are more crucial, but the bottom line, according to some lawmakers and state officials, is that the sky hasn’t fallen since marijuana became legal on Feb. 24, and it probably won’t fall. Local law enforcement officers in several communities have issued marijuana-related citations for things like smoking in public and minors consuming, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control board has had at least one preliminary discussion about regulating the new commercial industry.

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Most Read