In less than two weeks, Alaskans will be able to apply for the state's first commercial marijuana licenses.
With the Feb. 24 deadline fast approaching and the state's marijuana regulations mostly approved by the Department of Law, on Thursday the Alaska Marijuana Control Board approved the forms for the applications. It also discussed how to regulate the consumption of marijuana in certain retail stores.
At its Nov. 20 meeting, the board approved what it's calling an "on-site consumption endorsement" that would allow stores to include a space specifically for smoking or consuming marijuana, like a bar or café. But what should that space actually be like?
Board members weighed the idea of creating "bars" in retail shops, where a customer could smoke or consume marijuana in the store. A customer could be served a certain amount by an employee in that dedicated area of the store (much like a bartender serving patrons in a bar). In a different scenario, customers could buy marijuana in the store and consume it there or take it home.
Board member Peter Mlynarik was concerned about the safety ramifications of allowing people to consume an uncontrolled amount of marijuana. The "liability for the retail store owner is fairly large," he said.
Setting up a separate buying area would allow store personnel to have some control over how much their customers were consuming on site, said Cynthia Franklin, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.
"Perhaps we would look at having a limited set of products" available to on-site consumers, said board member Bruce Schulte. Controlling the amounts sold for on-site consumption could help with some of the liability that business owners face, assuage local government fears and address possible concerns by insurance providers, he said.
The idea didn't have universal support. Board member Mark Springer said he didn't envision two separate counters, one for buying only marijuana used in the store and the other for cannabis to take home.
All board members opposed the idea of a "happy hour," during which marijuana would be offered at discounted price.
Having proper ventilation is "going to be a huge issue" for shops, Schulte said. Board member Brandon Emmett spoke of "hefty" carbon filtration systems that he saw during trips to Canada. Most board members spoke against allowing outdoor consumption on the premises of the business, given that consumers would likely be in public view. The board members also discussed whether a business should be able to provide infused food or beverages -- such as pasta or infused coffee.
No decisions were made, but based on the feedback, the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office staff will have a draft of the on-site consumption law by April, Franklin said.
An updated timeline was also made public:
- On March 16, the first applications could be deemed complete.
- In late April, the boards Anchorage meeting will review the progress of the applications.
- The seed-to-sale marijuana system is supposed to be up and running by May 23.
- In June, the board will approve the first cultivation and testing licenses.
- In September, the board will approve the first retail store and manufacturing facility licenses.
All the application forms that business owners will fill out to for the various licenses -- from operating plans to the marijuana handler permit applications -- were approved by the board. The drafts can be viewed online.
In anticipation of the start of the application process, the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office will host training sessions on the licensing process two days next week. A video of one session will be posted online afterward, Franklin told the board.
There's no deadline to apply for a license, and there are no set number of licenses available.