Alaska's first draft marijuana regulations, proposed Thursday during an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board meeting in Anchorage, address what it means to help someone grow marijuana and what local-option law will look like.
The meeting at the downtown Legislative Information Office attracted about two dozen spectators, who lined a large conference room, surrounding board members and agency staff at a table in the center of the room.
A general sense of optimism prevailed among the audience members, many of whom hoped to start marijuana businesses.
Ronda Marcy, a paralegal who hopes to open a commercial grow, called the meeting "a positive step in the right direction."
Theresa Collins, owner of the Pot Luck Events marijuana club, said, "I feel really positive about the industry and the direction it's going."
The meeting opened with public testimony, with a focus on the importance of access to medical marijuana and the safety of medical marijuana products and testing facilities, among other issues.
Alaska legalized recreational marijuana on Nov. 24 and put the ABC Board in charge of crafting regulations, at least temporarily. This was the first time an ABC Board meeting centered on marijuana -- and while the board is starting the process, a newly created Marijuana Control Board will finish it.
The Marijuana Control Board will need to review and approve any regulations the ABC Board puts forth. But the members of the Marijuana Control Board need to be appointed first.
On Thursday, the ABC Board discussed and approved the first set of draft regulations. The regulations focus on two major aspects: definitions and local-option law.
Draft regulations: Definitions
The proposed definitions include basics such as a "marijuana plant" and "edible marijuana product," but also what it means to possess a plant or help someone grow marijuana.
The definition of "possess" could likely lead to "lively discussion," ABC Board director Cynthia Franklin told the board. That's because it will potentially affect how many plants are allowed per household.
The proposed regulations define "possess" as "having physical possession or the exercise of dominion or control over property."
Under the initiative, each person is allowed to possess six marijuana plants. So, under these regulations, if marijuana plants are in one's home, they are potentially in one's possession, and only six plants would be allowed in the home.
A second definition that would have implications for people hoping to start collective grows is what it means to "assist" another person. Under the initiative, a person is allowed to assist another person in growing, transporting or processing marijuana.
Under the proposed regulation, a person getting help growing marijuana would still need to have those plants grown within their own home. The regulation would prohibit people from having their marijuana grown anywhere else.
A person who is assisting another would also have to abide by the amount of marijuana a person is allowed to transport or possess (1 ounce). A person couldn't carry more than that because they are "assisting" someone else.
These laws would prohibit people from leaning on personal-use laws when in reality they have a commercial grow, such as the "community gardens" or "cultivation centers" that Colorado has been grappling with, Franklin told the board.
Draft regulations: Local option
Alaska's proposed marijuana regulations for local option look largely the same shape as the laws already on the books for alcohol, with one major difference: Marijuana possession in the home cannot be outlawed the way alcohol can. That's due to a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court case, Ravin v. State, that protects the right to privacy in having a small amount of marijuana in one's home.
A community could prohibit one or more types of marijuana establishments -- if a town wanted to ban commercial grows but allow retail stores, it could do so. Communities could also establish government-run marijuana establishments.
The board approved the draft on Thursday. Next up for these proposed regulations is a public comment period that will last at least 30 days. Copies of the drafts will be available on the ABC Board's website, and the public can comment on the proposed rules once the comment period opens.
To be updated on when the comment period will open, sign up for updates on the ABC Board's website.
The board also outlined its tentative timeline.
Regulations will be proposed in three rounds. Each time a set of regulations is proposed, a public comment period will be held.
In early July, the board will meet a second time to talk marijuana. The board will review public input for the first draft and make changes to these first regulations. The board will also hear the second set of draft regulations.
In early August, the Marijuana Control Board will meet, vote on whether to adopt the first set of regulations and hear public comment on the second set of regulations.
In early September, the board will vote on the second set of regulations and hear a third round of regulations.
In early October, the board will hear public comment on the third round of regulations.
In mid-November, the board will vote on the final set of regulations.
Nov. 24 is the deadline for creating regulations.
Also during the meeting, emergency regulations defining "public" were made permanent. This provides for a statewide definition of where marijuana consumption is illegal.
Franklin outlined the status of each bill in the Alaska Legislature -- which passed, and which failed.
The board compiled the number of hearings the Legislature and Franklin spent on marijuana issues this session:
-- Lawmakers discussed marijuana in 59 committee meetings.
-- Lawmakers discussed marijuana in 20 floor sessions.
-- Franklin participated in 19 of those meetings, testifying in 12.
To follow development of marijuana regulations, sign up for the ABC Board's notice list.
Read more about marijuana in Alaska in our Cannabis North section.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing