Alaska Marijuana News

On-site marijuana consumption in Alaska is back on the table

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board met Tuesday afternoon in Anchorage, discussing everything from its on-again, off-again relationship with marijuana cafes to whether or not cultivators can keep rolling joints before delivering them to shops.

Here are the most important takeaways:

The board will try again to write rules for marijuana cafes.

The control board will try again to write rules for on-site consumption areas at marijuana retailers, a project that it shot down at its last meeting. 

The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to revive the project. It is hoping to define parameters for on-site consumption areas, which are designated spaces within a marijuana shop for people to consume cannabis, akin to a cafe or bar.

Tuesday's discussion picked up from the board's Feb. 2 meeting, when it killed a regulation-drafting project that had been in the works since May 2016.

But confusion mounted in Alaska's cannabis industry with an email the next day from acting Marijuana and Alcohol Control Office Director Sara Chambers.


Chambers clarified the board could still technically approve on-site consumption areas, stemming from language the board approved in Nov. 2015 that was intended to be a placeholder until specifics could be hashed out.

So on Tuesday, the board opted to take another shot at writing rules around on-site consumption areas after board member Brandon Emmett brought a new motion to start up a new project.


After the meeting, Chair Peter Mlynarik and board member Mark Springer — who both had voted to strike the old project — talked about their reasons for taking another stab at the rules.

Springer said since Emmett had introduced a motion to take up the project again, he voted in favor of it.

"I never vote to not go into public comment," Springer said.

Mlynarik said the existing regulations necessitated it.

"There's still a regulation that made the place for on-site consumption, so that has to be addressed in some way," Mlynarik said. "We're not ignoring it. … That's the reason why we would be bringing up the regulation project."

Mlynarik called it a new project with the same theme as the old one. "We really don't know what this new regulation project is going to look like," he said.

Marijuana attorney Jana Weltzin offered another theory:

"If they didn't (take the project up) and they just summarily rejected all on-site operating plan requests that would be incredibly arbitrary since the regulations already allow for (it)," Weltzin said in a text message.

Alaska's state agencies are not allowed to act in an arbitrary way; to do so could be grounds for a lawsuit.

The board also addressed five marijuana shops that had included outlines of their on-site consumption areas in their business plans. Those plans had already been approved, but the question was whether the on-site consumption was included in that approval.

In a 4-1 vote, the board said it never intended to approve on-site consumption areas without having rules around them. So those businesses still need to wait until specifics are written.

Chambers asked board members to send in comments on what they'd like to see in the new draft project for staff to use as guidelines. A new version of on-site consumption rules will be back up for discussion this summer; any proposals will go back out for public comment. 

Growers and retailers can keep rolling joints.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board clarified that growers and retailers can roll joints. At the last meeting, the board had said joints were a marijuana product, meaning only businesses with a manufacturing license, which make edibles and concentrates, (there are only four active ones in the state) could roll a joint.


But board member Nick Miller said after reviewing the regulations the board determined joints can be rolled by growers or retailers as a form of packaging.

One clarification: "Nothing can be mixed or included in that marijuana that has been put into that preroll. Preroll is a form of packaging. If you mix it or add anything to it then it becomes a product," Miller said.

Worries about license backlog dominated public testimony.

During public testimony, many businesses asked the board to set up another meeting in May, in between their planned meetings in April and July. Would-be growers told the board they worried they wouldn't get their plants in the ground in time for the summer season.

A massive workload and understaffing have plagued the Control Office for months. Sarah Oates, program coordinator with the office, told the board on Tuesday a license examiner had left the office, and they were down to just one thoroughly trained examiner.

Marijuana attorney Jason Brandeis told the board his clients, who didn't get on the agenda for April's meeting, would have to wait until July, and that would "effectively preclude them from operating during the summer season."

The board meets again in early April.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.