In May, Alaska's Marijuana Control Board wrote the first draft rules around what it calls an "on-site consumption endorsement," which said marijuana retail stores could have a separate area for people to consume cannabis, in a model similar to a bar or cafe.
Four months later, those rules have yet to be finalized, and now they won't even be discussed for another seven weeks.
Board member Loren Jones asked that the rules, on the agenda for Wednesday morning, be discussed instead during the board's next meeting — at the end of October.
"I have some real questions about whether we can actually do this," Jones said, adding that a recent opinion from the state attorney general — that marijuana social clubs are public spaces, not private like the establishments contend — gave him pause.
"I would like some more time," he said.
Board member Brandon Emmett spoke out against the move.
"We're kicking the can down the road here. We're using some pretty creative language to delay, delay, delay some more," Emmett said.
"By delaying this any further not only have we wasted valuable time, resources, but we're also in a situation where these clubs continue to operate," he added.
Drafts have gone out for public comment twice, in May and July.
"I don't think that delaying this for a month is going to be an undue hardship on a licensee," said board member Mark Springer. Having a place for visitors to Alaska to consume cannabis was part of the reasoning behind having cafes, and with the tourist season winding down, waiting won't cause harm, he said.
Springer said after the meeting he is confident the board will get to the rules, although what shape they take is still unknown. Smoke-free workplace laws — a major concern from the public comment — complicate the issue, he said.
Attorney Jana Weltzin, who represents many of the marijuana business licensees and hopeful licensees, said she didn't believe there was anything nefarious behind the delay.
"It takes a lot of time and energy to flesh out these issues," Weltzin said. In some ways, the industry failed in providing meaningful suggestions. But by delaying the rules, illegal retail sales have been given the space to continue, she said.
Evan Neal, of hopeful retail store AlaskaSense LLC, was approved for his growing license Wednesday. He was also unworried by the delayed rules. "I think it's something they'll work out on their own time," Neal said.
Emmett disagreed. "We can spin it however we want, but it's becoming quite apparent that there is an effort by this board to stamp out consumption anywhere other than one's home," Emmett said.
"Mr. Emmett ascribes a lot of motives to me, and that's fine, he can ascribe any motive he wants. I just need some time," board member Jones said.
The board meets again at the end of October. Should it make substantial changes to its most recent draft rules, the rules would need to go back out for public comment.
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited attorney Weltzin as saying a delay in rules had allowed illegal clubs to continue. This has been corrected to clarify that she was addressing illegal retail sales, not clubs.