Cannabis North

Alaska House passes bill clarifying municipal marijuana regulations

The state House Thursday afternoon passed a bill that would clarify municipal regulation of marijuana businesses and define the number of plants allowed per household.

House Bill 75 clarifies municipalities' processes for registering marijuana businesses; authorizes "marijuana clubs" where the substance could be consumed; gives municipalities power to establish civil and criminal penalties for businesses; defines what the term "assisting" means in terms of helping someone with their plants or marijuana; establishes provisions for communities to prohibit businesses; and establishes a 24-plant limit per household.

The 11-page HB 75 was sponsored by the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. Chair Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, testified that the bill was "fix-it" legislation seeking to clarify processes for implementing the initiative at the municipal level. More than a dozen municipal attorneys helped craft the bill, Tilton testified.

Alaska's initiative legalizing recreational marijuana went into effect Feb. 24, but the eight-page bill left many of the details of regulation up to the state. HB 75 will now advance to the Senate for further consideration. On the Senate side, the closely watched marijuana crime bill has advanced furthest, passing the Senate last week and now heading to the House.

An amendment offered by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, that would have reduced the number of plants to 12 per household was debated on the House floor.

Lynn argued that 24 plants per household is "just way, way too many. We don't need to, and shouldn't, legalize a forest of marijuana plants in a dwelling."

Tilton testified that the municipalities had asked specifically for a 24-plant limit. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, argued that 24 plants is a "reasonable compromise" that would avoid lawsuits and uphold Alaska's constitution.

Lynn's amendment failed 10-27.

Under the ballot initiative, a person 21 or older may possess up to six cannabis plants, three of which may be mature at a time. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has said the six-plant limit is per household. If the bill were to pass in its current form, it would allow four times that amount.

Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, testified that she would vote against the bill due to numerous concerns with the legalization of marijuana, notably regarding public safety.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, testified that she would vote against the bill because it defines a limit on the number of plants per household instead of per person. "I don't know how many it should or shouldn't be," Wilson said.

The bill was the first to reach the House floor. It passed 36-2, with Reinbold and Wilson voting against it.

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that Rep. Mike Chenault voted against HB 75. He voted for it. The article has been updated to reflect the accurate information.

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.