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Proposed Anchorage ordinance: Keep your cannabis in the trunk

The authors of a proposed Anchorage ordinance expanding open-container laws to marijuana want you to keep your cannabis in the trunk of your car.

Anchorage Assembly members Ernie Hall and Amy Demboski will introduce four proposed ordinances at Tuesday's Assembly meeting that touch on the finer points of marijuana regulation, from defining "personal cultivation" to possession of cannabis in limousines.

A chance for the public to weigh in will come later.

The proposed ordinances are largely "housekeeping" matters of bringing municipal code into alignment with state statute, Hall said.

But they also contain provisions that could, if they become law, shape the way Anchorage residents do things like drive a batch of marijuana brownies to a friend's house.

Chief among them is the ordinance that would update the alcoholic beverage open-container law to include marijuana.

The ordinance says that marijuana must be kept out of the passenger compartment of a vehicle. In most cases, that means keeping pot in the trunk.

In a station wagon, hatchback or other vehicle without a trunk, it could be stored "behind the last upright seat." Transporting marijuana via motorcycle would be permitted.

An exception is also made for cannabis "in the possession of a passenger in a motor vehicle for which the owner receives direct monetary compensation and that has a capacity of 12 or more persons," such as a charter bus.

Passengers riding in a licensed limousine could carry marijuana as long as the windows are tinted and the partition between driver and passengers is closed.

But the proposed ordinance is silent on whether marijuana, like alcohol, could be consumed inside a limo.

Dan Baird, owner of Aurora Limousines, is not interested in allowing his customers to use marijuana in his limos.

"I hadn't thought of it," he said. "But no, we would not want to permit any drug use of any type beyond alcohol. That smoke would definitely go up in the driver's area anyway. It'd be like cigarette smoke."

Attorneys say the "trunk rule" is a way around the fact that, unlike a beer or bottle of vodka, baggies of pot and edibles aren't easily identified as sealed or open.

"Marijuana and marijuana products come in many different forms," municipal attorneys Seneca Theno and Christie White wrote in a memo attached to the proposed ordinance. "It is likely that most of the packing will not lend itself well to open versus closed distinctions."

Simply prohibiting marijuana in the passenger areas of a vehicle will be simpler for drivers to understand and police to enforce, they wrote.

In Colorado and Washington, attorneys already advise clients to store pot in the trunk, despite legal gray areas about where it can be carried in vehicles and what constitutes a sealed or open container.

But on a state level, others haven't gone all the way to a trunk rule.

"I am not aware of any other states that have expanded their open container laws to include marijuana," wrote Alison Masbury, an attorney who works with cannabis business clients at HarrisMoure, a Seattle law firm.

The other proposed ordinances being introduced Tuesday cover:

• Adding marijuana to existing laws prohibiting minors from driving under the influence;