Scott Woodham

Chris wonders, “If you have a used pipe in your truck (or an unsmoked or partially smoked joint), can that be considered an open container, or proof of intoxication even if you have not smoked in several hours?” Lots going on with this question, so let’s start with where the law stands. As of this moment, Alaska doesn’t have an open-container law on the books when it comes to cannabis. Such provisions were included in the omnibus crime bill last session . But that bill ended up staggering to a halt at the end of the regular term like a pipeline-surplus Suburban. It currently sits referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Without a state law on cannabis open containers yet, communities may feel the need to go their own way. Anchorage was the first, and as far as I know, only community to...Scott Woodham
Mark asks, “If your employer doesn't already drug test, can they start immediately and just start testing anyone at random, or is there a process they must go through, like a notice to employees the policy is going to change and random testing will begin in xx amount of days?” Luckily, there’s already a clear answer here, and it was set long before cannabis legalization took effect in Alaska: No. State law says that an employer without a drug testing policy can’t just start immediately drug testing people, random or not, without facing potential litigation and damages. And to be immune from those potential consequences, an employer’s testing program must follow certain protocols that state law outlines. To be clear, though, here we're talking about employer-specific testing programs, and...Scott Woodham
Nathan wonders something that a few other people have asked about too: "My understanding is that it is currently illegal to consume or possess any amount of marijuana within 500 feet of a school zone, regardless if you're on private property or not. I have a two-part question. 1. Will the law allow people to consume marijuana in their private residence, regardless of where it is in relation to a school zone? 2. Will businesses be allowed to sell marijuana within 500 feet of a school zone?" These questions are based on a little bit of a misconception, but let’s get the simple part out of the way first. State regulations recently adopted won't license a marijuana business located within 500 feet of "school grounds, a recreation or youth center, a building in which religious services are...Scott Woodham
“Sally” asks: “All state employees have to declare any alternative income, and jobs that could potentially interfere with their work duties. My question is, can and will the state deny employees from participating in the commercial marijuana industry regardless of the employee not consuming the drug themselves?” In the world of Alaska cannabis policy and regulation, a clear answer is a beautiful thing. And that’s exactly what we found here. There’s no law against state employees getting involved in the commercial cannabis industry, and unless there’s an ethical concern or conflict between the venture and their state job, they’re in the clear. Megan Collie, special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration, said after looking into the question that the issue...Scott Woodham
This week “Peabody” wonders, “If someone was robbed for marijuana, how would law enforcement officers choose to respond, if at all?” After polling Alaska’s major law enforcement departments, the conclusion is pretty clear. If your legally compliant home garden or pot stash is robbed, pinched, cropped or burgled, you should not fear legal repercussions by reporting (unless you have other dirt going on), and officers will investigate your complaint like any other property crime. But that’s not to say everyone will suddenly feel entirely comfortable identifying themselves as cannabis growers or victims of theft. People are still free not to report crimes for whatever reason they wish. Megan Peters, public information officer for the Alaska State Troopers, said, “We can’t help you unless you...Scott Woodham
Our question this week comes from Guy Page, who wonders in Vermont: “As you may know, Vermont is considering similar legislation (to legalize marijuana). The connection between youth access and legalization is, of course, a matter of concern. Understanding that Alaska and Vermont are two very different places, could you please point me to some hard, or even semi-hard, data on how youth access has been affected?” There’s a lot going on in this question, so I'll try hard not to fly into a full-on stats-nerd Hulk-out over here. First of all, because licensed sales have not yet begun in Alaska, any understanding of the public health impact of legalization here will necessarily be incomplete so far. That’s the case for adults and youth. And even pets. Because legalization and regulation have...Scott Woodham
This week we won't start off with a particular reader's question as we usually do. In the past several weeks, we've received a few inquiries about the same topic: What recourse is there if someone's home grow smells up the neighborhood or condo building to the point it becomes a nuisance to others? There's a flip-side to that, too. What can home growers do to avoid such a hassle? Judging just from the Highly Informed inbox, the smell of flowering cannabis may be more noticeable lately, but only slightly. Maybe the recent spate of inquiries have come because Alaska Permanent Fund dividends just dropped, but maybe there are simply more brand-new or beginning home gardeners out there since legalization day. Most of the questions arose from apartment building conflicts, but someone in...Scott Woodham
“Kenai Pen Name,” who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is experiencing early-stage symptoms, including painful muscle spasms, asks: “I would like to know more about how cannabidiol (CBD) oil fits into marijuana laws. Is it treated the same as regular marijuana? Is there awareness about the difference? Are there any plans to make it available for sale?” I'm not sure about how much awareness is out there, but the differences between CBD and other cannabinoids could fill this space just by itself (and it could get really sciencey). The main details for the purposes of this column are that CBD does not cause a “high” in people, and when it enters the body it does not act on the same chemical receptors that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis...Scott Woodham
As draft regulations reach a more cohesive form, “Territorial Alaskan (old guy)” has a question that involves the timeline regulators have to work with: “I understand that marijuana dispensaries may be able to open their businesses in licensed locations around Alaska next spring. If that's true, how will retail operations find enough inventory if commercial growers are not licensed at least six months in advance of that date?” First off, there's a slight misconception here. The dates Territorial Alaskan is thinking of next spring are not the date that businesses can open, just when first licenses are likely to be issued. Whether or not a business can open on the day its license is granted is more of a business matter than a regulatory one. First, a quick run-down on the process. The...Scott Woodham
Jason wonders, “I’m curious about how the law affects those that have a criminal record on account of a marijuana arrest/charge from before legalization. Can those people expunge their record? Is there any process for them to correct their criminal record now that marijuana is legal?” When it comes to our discussions of cannabis laws in Alaska, there are precious few solid answers. Fortunately for everyone, this is one of them. Unfortunately for some, that answer is no, there's no process to remove a cannabis criminal charge from one's record. Ballot Measure 2 didn't create any new statutes providing for one, either. Alaska Department of Law Criminal Division Director John Skidmore acknowledged in an email that Alaska law doesn't provide a way for anyone to seek removal of a criminal...Scott Woodham