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US: Alaska poised to become first state to allow on-site cannabis consumption

Kristin Lam

USA Today

Thursday 20 Dec 2018

Marijuana regulators on Thursday approved rules that may allow people to smoke or consume cannabis at state-endorsed dispensaries in Alaska β€” perhaps on patios or rooftops.

Under the Marijuana Control Board's rules, consumers will be able to enter a licensed retail store, purchase up to 1 gram of flower or edibles with up to 10 mg of THC and use it in a separate indoor or outdoor area that meets specific standards. Businesses will first need to apply for an onsite consumption endorsement, however, Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Erika McConnell told USA TODAY.

Alaska would be the first to establish regulatory framework for on-site use at the state level, according to Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the Marijuana Policy Project. He said it could be a model for other states. But local governments could prevent on-site consumption endorsements from being issued in their areas or create restrictions, McConnell said, with ballot measures or by ordinances.

Not to mention, the state's Department of Law will need to review and revise the laws, which McConnell said may take three to six weeks, before the bull could be signed into law. After that, businesses can submit applications to the board, starting an evaluation process.

β€œIt’s not like people are going to be opening these up in the next week,” said Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.

To qualify, McConnell said dispensaries would need a completely separate room with a door, sectioning off the consumption area from the main part of the store where products are sold.

Stores must also have a smoke-free area for employees to monitor the consumption area, which people can only enter from inside the dispensary. The board will further require a separate ventilation system in the consumption room "sufficient to remove visible smoke" and "adequate to eliminate odor at the property line."

That way, McConnell said, those who prefer not to smoke or inhale secondhand smoke can purchase edibles at stores without being exposed to the consumption area's fumes.

With the outdoor provision, McConnell said businesses may propose consumption areas on a patio or rooftop, though approval would be determined based on neighboring property owners and buildings.

"The licensee, of course, has to address how they're going to prevent diversion, how they're going to prevent access by people under the age of 21," McConnell said. "So even if they are sort of in an area where they don't have a lot of neighbors, they're still going to have to explain to the board how they're going to prevent someone who's 18 from walking into the area and saying, 'Hey, can I get a smoke?'"

To date, 76 cannabis retail stores operate in the state, but McConnell said the board does not know how many stores may be eligible because of the stand-alone building requirement.

The board first began considering onsite marijuana consumption rules in 2016, McConnell said, but rejected the project in 2017. She said some of the delays were caused by members wanting to give larger than required public comment periods.

Public health advocates, including the state health commissioner and anti-smoking activists, opposed the draft proposal. Marijuana businesses supported onsite consumption, noting tourists could benefit.

The rules will not allow marijuana purchased outside of an endorsed retail store into that store's consumption area.

Contributing: The Associated Press




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