Skip to main Content

Here's what Alaska's marijuana bars may look like

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published April 27, 2016

No happy hours, but serving food and non-alcoholic beverages would be allowed in Alaska's marijuana cafes, according to draft rules accepted by the state's Marijuana Control Board.

On Tuesday, the board agreed on draft regulations that show the first details of what the "on-site consumption" area, akin to a café or bar, would look like. The draft now heads to the public for comment.

Alaska is the only state where regulators have carved out in their rules a public place where people can go to smoke or eat cannabis.

After much public debate about whether to allow for an area to consume marijuana -- notably for tourists, who have nowhere private to smoke cannabis they may purchase in Alaska's retail stores -- the board approved the rule in November.

Since Alaska is the only state tackling the issue of on-site consumption, Marijuana Control Board chair Bruce Schulte said the board should proceed with a "suitable degree of caution," and that the provision is likely to cause "the most angst" for local officials of any of the marijuana regulations.

Here are the details of the first draft:

Existing marijuana retail stores would apply for a separate license for the consumption area, which would have to be located on the same premises. The area could be either indoors or outdoors, but must be separate from the retail store, with its own door, serving area and ventilation system. Businesses would pay a $1,000 fee for what the board calls the "on-site consumption endorsement."

As with a bar or café, people would purchase small amounts of marijuana to consume on-site. People would not be allowed to bring their own cannabis to smoke or eat.

To avoid overconsumption, the board would set limits on how much could be sold in a single transaction. A person could buy only 1 gram of marijuana bud, marijuana edibles with 10 milligrams of THC, or 0.25 grams of marijuana concentrates. If a person didn't finish the marijuana, they would have to leave it behind to be destroyed.

Discussed at length was whether dabbing (smoking highly concentrated doses of THC extracted from cannabis) should be allowed, and the appropriate amount for a person to purchase without being overly intoxicated.

With "all eyes being on us … (the question) 'Do dabbing and driving mix?' is a very important conversation to have," said Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office director Cynthia Franklin.

Board member Brandon Emmett advocated to allow dabbing, although he said the draft amount of 0.25 grams would be "fat dab," causing some chuckles from the audience.

Businesses would have to provide marijuana safety and dosage information free of charge for each product sold at the site. Food and non-alcoholic beverages could also be sold in the consumption area.

Like the retail stores, only people over 21 years of age could enter the area, and employees would have to monitor the store's patrons for overconsumption. Employees couldn't partake of any products while at work, allow intoxicated people to come inside or stick around or sell to an intoxicated person.

No happy hours, contests or deliveries would be allowed, also to avoid promoting overconsumption, said Franklin.

Local indoor smoking bans still apply. Local governments could also, under the draft rules, protest individual establishments.

'That’s all I wanted'

In another notable development from Tuesday's meeting, the board allowed stalled applications to move forward by authorizing the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office to deem applications complete before the results of national background checks are in.

Potential marijuana businesses began applying for licenses on Feb. 24, but so far, none have been deemed complete. That's because the staff of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office was waiting until the board had the ability to process national background checks, although there was no statutory requirement to do so, the board's general counsel, Harriet Milks, said Tuesday.

Schulte's motion authorized the office to "defer any criminal background checks to the tail end of the application review process and not let that stall the applications further," Schulte said after the vote.

Eight applications that are finished, but had been stalled due to the background check issue, will now be deemed complete and forwarded to local governments for review, Franklin said.

"That's all I wanted. That was my one goal for today," Schulte said later.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.

Comments