Legislators still have months to pre-file legislation, but one Anchorage representative says he hopes to start a conversation about drafting marijuana regulations early, after Alaskans voted last week to legalize recreational marijuana.
Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said he plans to introduce legislation in January dealing with several elements of marijuana regulations and safety.
Lynn's bill, currently in draft form, addresses three key marijuana sales issues: Restricting marijuana establishments to a certain distance from schools, churches, recreation and youth centers or public parks; limiting advertising; and barring individuals convicted of a felony from working in or owning a marijuana establishment.
Lynn's office began looking at drafting legislation days before the election in the event the measure passed. Lynn personally opposed Ballot Measure 2, the initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska, but said the people have spoken and now it's time to move forward.
"Basically to me it's a matter of public safety," he said Monday.
Lynn said the legislation provides a framework for legislators to start discussions dealing with marijuana concerns. The initiative already allows restrictions on advertising, zoning and other business elements to be regulated, but it does not specify how. Writers of the initiative said leaving that information out was an intentional effort to give lawmakers more control during the regulatory process.
Lynn said details like the distance limit could be changed as the bill makes its way toward a vote. Lynn's bill currently restricts marijuana establishments from being within 500 feet of any restricted properties. Alaska statutes prohibit alcohol from being within 200 feet of any school. In Washington state, marijuana and alcohol establishments must be 1,000 feet away from such buildings.
Lynn said as the process moves forward, he expects plenty of discussion from lawmakers and regulators as they draft marijuana rules.
"I want to have something as a discussion point," Lynn said.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Director Cynthia Franklin said the issues Lynn addresses could be dealt with by the ABC board or a potential marijuana control board, but was not surprised to see a legislator already working toward clarifying the initiative.
"(Lynn) is getting out ahead and we expect other legislators to do the same," she said.
The rulemaking process is a bit of a balance between statutes from the initiative, amendments added from the Legislature and regulations stemming from the created statutes. Franklin said citizen's initiatives often have gaps that are addressed with amendments by the Legislature. If there are still gaps once statutes are enacted, then the ABC board will address them during the regulatory process.
Franklin said to expect the restrictions to be practical, but strict -- similar to alcohol control in the state.
"In the end, it will all balance out," she said.
Lynn said he hadn't heard from any legislators also working on marijuana bills, but did not rule out that others might exist. He said the marijuana initiative was mentioned briefly at the House Majority leadership meeting last week, but it remained unclear if the issue would be a priority during the session.
"I hope so," Lynn said.