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Supporters condemn legislative effort to define, delay marijuana concentrates

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published January 19, 2015

A possible delay on implementing marijuana concentrate regulations in Alaska has proponents of legalization fuming.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, pre-filed House Bill 59 Friday, which is intended to provide guidance on marijuana concentrates. The bill includes several provisions on dealing with the substances, including delaying the regulations on concentrates for up to a year.

The bill includes an amended definition of what marijuana concentrates are. In that definition, it specifically excludes hashish and hashish oil. The latter is better known as hash oil, a concentrated form of marijuana that faced scrutiny due to its method of manufacture, in the debate over Ballot Measure 2, the initiative legalizing recreational marijuana.

Seaton said in an interview Friday he supported the initiative and voted for it in November. But he said that when Alaskans voted for the measure they might not have realized what the substance entails. In his view, marijuana includes two separate parts: marijuana plants and marijuana concentrates.

He said the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board or marijuana control board (if created by the Legislature) would already have plenty to do when it comes to creating marijuana regulations. He hopes his bill will at least help clarify the concentrate portion of the law.

He also said that extending the timeline means the board could potentially finish crafting concentrate regulations earlier than his proposed November 2016 deadline. That's a year after when regulations should be drafted, according to provisions in the ballot initiative.

"I think the board would be much better able to serve its functions and come out with better thought-out and well-researched regulations and allow more public comment if the regulations are split in to those two sections," he said.

He left hash oil out of the definition of marijuana concentrates because he wanted to make sure it's specifically addressed by the Legislature.

"I don't have any solutions or any way I personally think that should go, but it needs to be one clarification or point of discussion," Seaton said.

Supporters of the initiative condemned the bill, saying the timeline as laid out in the initiative should be followed. Some supporters worry that a delay during the rulemaking process could potentially lead to a repeal of the initiative in two years, when the Legislature can first take such an action against voter initiatives.

"The Legislature has important roles to play in creating effective marijuana policy, but delaying implementation of the initiative is not one of them, nor is changing the definition of marijuana that the voters approved in November," Ballot Measure 2 co-sponsor Tim Hinterberger said in a statement Friday. "Not only would Rep. Seaton's proposal defy the will of the voters, it is not legal and would open the state up to costly litigation, which it would surely lose. The state should move forward with implementing what Alaska voters approved, not try to roll it back."

Bruce Schulte, spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation said in a statement the bill was "troubling" on multiple levels.

"It imposes yet another delay on implementation which has become the preferred tactic of opponents of this initiative," he said. "It seems that they will do whatever they can to push implementation off long enough to allow the legislature to simply repeal the law that voters approved."

Jeff Jessee, CEO of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and an opponent of Ballot Measure 2, said in an interview Friday he supports the idea of taking more time for regulations. He just finished attending a three-day conference in Colorado on the impacts of marijuana legalization. He learned from the conference that Colorado and Washington's regulatory frameworks are still evolving, he said. He encouraged taking longer in an effort to expand public engagement.

"It seems to me that if you wanted to have a process that really got the issues out in to the public domain and discuss the various policy options, it's going to take a while," he said.

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