All but two parts of Alaska's rules governing commercial marijuana were approved by the state government Friday, with one section addressing criminal background checks and another providing exceptions to marijuana testing for growers in rural areas struck down by the state Department of Law.
On Dec. 1, the five-member Marijuana Control Board made its final tweaks to the rules outlining Alaska's commercial marijuana industry. The 127-page document outlines everything from grower operations to testing and processing requirements, and includes a provision allowing for on-site consumption of marijuana at retail stores, the first law of its kind in the nation.
Nearly all of the regulations passed a subsequent review by the Department of Law, save two pieces of the text, senior assistant attorney general Steven Weaver wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who signed the regulations Friday.
The first thing struck down by the Department of Law was a line requiring a national criminal history record check. That authority must come from state statute, not the board's regulation, Weaver wrote.
A fix is already in the works, according to Marijuana Control Board chair Bruce Schulte. "There's already steps being taken to get that in front of the Legislature for their consideration," Schulte said.
The second section taken out by the Department of Law is a little trickier to rectify, Schulte said.
All marijuana must be tested for both potency and microbials, but whether rural growers will have access to testing facilities is still up in the air. Testing equipment is expensive, and those facilities will likely be located on the state's limited road system, Schulte said.
"This is a problem because intra-state transportation by air remains problematic," Schulte said, and sending marijuana to testing facilities isn't condoned by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Marijuana Control Board attempted to address the issue by allowing "alternative means of testing" if "geographic location and transportation limitations" make it unfeasible.
That allowance was struck down by the Department of Law. Weaver wrote that the language lacks standards to apply the definition in a consistent or unbiased way.
"I was just trying to acknowledge the fact that the rural communities have a real challenge," Schulte said of the rule language, which he introduced despite being forewarned that the Department of Law had issues with the amendment.
For now, that issue will remain up in the air, Schulte said.
"Everyone involved expects these regulations to evolve and be refined over time," Schulte said. "It's my hope that in the meantime folks that are in the rural communities … will come forward with some suggested changes" to the rules.
The regulations go into effect on Feb. 21. A few days later, on Feb. 24, the state must begin accepting license applications. The first licenses will likely be issued in early June, according to Alcoholic Beverage and Marijuana Control Office director Cynthia Franklin.
Correction: This story originally stated the first marijuana business licenses would be issued in May.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing