In-store marijuana use at retail pot shops in Alaska is inching closer to becoming reality.
At the Alaska Marijuana Control Board's meeting held Wednesday through Friday this week in Fairbanks, board members approved 3-2 a proposal to set up rules for on-site marijuana consumption at retail stores.
The proposal includes a draft of specific rules for everything from ventilation and location of these consumption areas to how much marijuana can be used there, and much more. Citizens will have 60 days to comment on the proposal before the draft rules come back to the board, likely at the November meeting.
In November 2015, the board voted to allow on-site consumption at marijuana stores. Alaska Dispatch News reported at the time that the amendment passed to allow such consumption would function "as a placeholder," pending more specific rules. In February, Alaska Dispatch News reported the board abandoned a regulatory project that had been in the works since May 2016. But then, in March, the body decided it would take another stab at it.
Alaska's set of regulations for on-site marijuana consumption would appear to be one of the first, if not the first, in the country.
A law passed in Maine in November allows for marijuana social clubs there. The Portland Press Herald reported in April that the referendum indicates people would be able to "buy and consume recreational marijuana on premises" at those social clubs. But the Bangor Daily News, also in Maine, reported in May that there's still a lot of uncertainty in that state as lawmakers craft regulations.
At the Alaska meeting this week, board member Brandon Emmett cited recent news stories about tourists who come to the Last Frontier, buy marijuana and then typically have nowhere to use it legally because smoking isn't allowed in public. He also brought up the Anchorage Assembly's resolution this week that urged the board to allow consumption of cannabis in pot shops.
"I think it's time this board adopt something realistic and give those individuals who have no place to consume marijuana some place to do it legally," he said.
Also this week, the board discussed a number of other regulatory proposals and approved 26 new marijuana business licenses for cultivators, retailers and a testing facility.
The board approved a motion to request that the Legislature amend the rules for marijuana licensee background checks to say those checks will be need to be renewed every three years instead of every year.
The next meeting of the Marijuana Control Board is set for Sept. 14.