Cannabis North

Two marijuana bills heard in final days of Alaska legislative session

Two pieces of marijuana legislation -- one that would create a Marijuana Control Board and a second that would clarify municipal marijuana regulations -- were heard in the Alaska Legislature on Friday afternoon in the final days of the regular session.

The Marijuana Control Board bill, House Bill 123, was moved out of the Senate Finance Committee on Friday afternoon after public testimony.

The bill includes a fiscal note for $1.57 million that would allow for expansion of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board's staff and resources. The Marijuana Control Board would share the ABC Board's staff and director.

When Alaska's marijuana initiative went into effect Feb. 24, it gave the Legislature power to create a Marijuana Control Board. If no board is created, it's up to the ABC Board to create the regulations.

ABC Board director Cynthia Franklin has said that if the board receives no additional funding for the voter mandate, it amounts to a "de facto repeal" of the initiative that would likely be the subject of litigation.

Chris Hladick, commissioner designee for the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, testified Friday that "we very much need to get this board in place and work on this initiative."

The bill next will need to pass a Senate floor vote.

In the Senate Judiciary Committee, a bill clarifying municipalities' role in marijuana regulation was heard but not passed.

House Bill 75 clarifies municipal processes for registering marijuana businesses, gives municipalities power to establish civil and criminal penalties for businesses and establishes a 24-plant limit per household, among other rules.

The bill was crafted with the help of 23 municipal attorneys, sponsor Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, told legislators on Friday.

Several municipal attorneys, including Dennis Wheeler of Anchorage, spoke in support of the bill.

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, introduced an amendment that would remove the term "marijuana clubs" from the description of "marijuana establishments." Coghill cited concerns that allowing clubs would be premature, given many unknowns in the nine-month regulatory process to come.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, asked for clarification and Tilton's chief of staff, Heath Hilyard, clarified that removing "marijuana clubs" would not explicitly prohibit them.

Rather, "we're sending a message that we think we need more time to study it," McGuire said.

McGuire told listeners that the committee would reconvene Saturday, vote on the amendment and move the bill out of committee.

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.