Alaska Marijuana News

Anchorage Assembly restricts manufacture of marijuana concentrates with flammables

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday banned the manufacture of marijuana concentrates using flammable solvents like butane -- including hashish or hash oil -- without permission from authorities.

The ordinance passed unanimously, 9-0, during a special meeting on the day Alaska's recreational marijuana law went into effect. The ordinance was introduced in early February by the administration of Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.

The ordinance makes it unlawful to "manufacture a marijuana concentrate, hashish, or hash oil by use of solvents containing compressed flammable gases or through use of a solvent-based extraction method using a substance other than vegetable glycerin," unless the person is licensed.

Under the ordinance, such manufacture is a class A misdemeanor offense.

Butane hash oil, and particularly the dangers of its manufacturing, arose as a point of concern leading up to the Nov. 4 election, when Alaskans passed Ballot Measure 2, the initiative legalizing recreational marijuana.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska supported Tuesday's ordinance. Spokesperson Taylor Bickford said after the meeting that the manufacture of concentrates using flammable gases without a license "should be banned."

During discussion of the ordinance, Assembly member Bill Evans asked what the urgency was in holding a special meeting. He voiced concern that the Assembly was "overreacting to a situation that really has no evidence that it's changing."

Municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler responded that following marijuana legalization in Colorado, house fires and explosions were increasing, according to Colorado law enforcement agencies. He also showed an excerpt of a documentary that followed a California drug dealer manufacturing the potent marijuana concentrate "shatter," and showed images he said were from Colorado and depicted homes badly damaged and people injured in explosions from manufacturing concentrates.

The images "give a sense of how dangerous it is," Wheeler said.

Evans also questioned whether facing a misdemeanor would deter someone from making marijuana concentrates if the threat of blowing up their own home was not enough of a deterrent.

Assembly member Amy Demboski said that while the measure may not deter everyone, a person charged with a misdemeanor for manufacturing concentrates would likely not be able to obtain a conditional-use permit for marijuana businesses going forward.

Creating the ban was also an "educational piece for the public," Demboski said, to warn of the dangers.

Assembly member Tim Steele spoke of the fluidity of marijuana regulations in the initial stages.

"We will, I suspect, have updates to a lot of these ordinances as we move along," Steele said.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.