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What's the status of Alaska's rules on cannabis concentrates?

  • Author: Scott Woodham
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published August 13, 2015

Well, Alaska's Marijuana Control Board has released the third package of proposed regulations and held meetings in Anchorage on Monday and Tuesday. Regulators heard feedback and discussed the rules taking shape for Alaska's legal cannabis industry. Today, we'll look at a question related to some of those rules under development.

"Fishboy from Juneau" asks: "Will extracts like BHO (Butane Hash Oil) and shatter be available for us Alaskans? What do the laws look like surrounding concentrates?"

It appears at this point that, yes, concentrates like those will be available for Alaskans once the licenses to produce, test and sell them are granted. But some discussion remains before the final rules take shape, and no one's been licensed yet. As we've learned previously, home production of concentrates for personal use is restricted in several localities to non-solvent-based extraction methods that lack the potential for fire or explosion, so recreational consumers will have to wait for the legal availability of the sophisticated products Fishboy identifies.

There have been scattered unsuccessful local efforts to prohibit concentrates, and proposed local option rules would provide some control for individual towns to match their own preference about what business license types to allow, but efforts to bar legally available concentrates don't appear to be progressing at at the statewide level at this time. But the legislative process is active and ongoing and that may change.

Read more Highly Informed: Seeking answers to Alaska's cannabis questions

Last legislative session, the Alaska Senate rejected a House amendment to SB 30 that would have banned concentrates starting in 2017. That bill passed the Senate and is awaiting House consideration.

There's also House Bill 59, which now proposes legislative intent language that would delay allowing the sale and manufacture of cannabis concentrates until no later than Nov. 24, 2016. That bill, which received criticism upon being introduced, is currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee in revised form.

As things stand now (even though unlicensed manufacture of concentrates by certain methods is barred by ordinance in much of Alaska), the laws do allow for adults over 21 to give each other up to 1 ounce of concentrate. In terms of allowable quantity for cannabis, the authorities have been using the in-home possession limit set by the court precedent in Noy v. State, which stands at 4 ounces. Because of the way the initiative defined marijuana to include concentrates, it would stand to reason that the same limit would include concentrates as well as flowers.

Generally speaking, though, limits on in-home personal possession constitute a tangled, living legal thicket because of apparent conflicts between statutes approved by the ballot measure and previously existing court precedent. But when it comes to personal-use in the privacy of one's own home, authorities have repeatedly said they look at a totality of circumstances and that their main goal is to target illicit sales.

To my knowledge, there is no current proposal to remove concentrates from the definition of marijuana instituted by the initiative. There is, however, one revision to it proposed in one of the rules packages released by the Alcoholic Control Board and the MCB. That item would more explicitly define the term "marijuana concentrate" to mean "resin, oil, wax, or any other substance produced by extracting or isolating cannabinoids, THC, or other components from the marijuana plant or harvest thereof."

That's a pretty wide definition that still appears to allow for regulation of all manner of possible commercial concentrates. Plus, it would not remove concentrates from the main definition, just specify what a concentrate is within the existing definition of marijuana. So, unless the Legislature decides to approve that delay or go beyond it in some other piece of legislation, it appears that the answer is yes. Provisions are being established that will allow Alaskans access to commercially produced concentrates.

Have a question about marijuana news or culture in Alaska? Send it to cannabis-north@alaskadispatch.com with "Highly Informed" in the subject line.

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