Alaska News

Would proposed rule contradict Alaska initiative on cannabis gifts?

"AKEngineer" is hoping for clarity on a source of confusion he or she discovered in close readings of the proposed regulations that will eventually shape Alaska's legal cannabis industry:

The ballot initiative specifically made it legal to give up to an ounce of marijuana to someone over 21. The proposed new regulations (appear to contradict the law and) make it illegal to give any amount "to a consumer" without purchasing a $5,000 license and going through a bureaucratic mess. Do regulations trump the law passed by the citizens? Or, if I give a friend a joint, is he/she not a "consumer"?

Well, if AKEngineer gives a friend a joint, one would expect that person to consume it. But does consumption actually make someone a "consumer"? Engineer specifically referenced some lines in the proposed reg 3 AAC 306.300 as the source of his confusion:

A person may not sell, give, distribute, or deliver, or offer to sell, give, distribute, or deliver marijuana or any marijuana product to a consumer unless the person has obtained a marijuana retail store license from the board in compliance with this chapter, or is an employee or agent of a licensed marijuana retail store operating in compliance with this chapter."

That section of regulation, titled, "Marijuana retail store license required," then goes on to describe how a person seeking a retail store license should proceed and what provisions of state code he or she must observe in seeking that license.

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

The apparent contradiction arose for AKEngineer because the statute passed by voters as Ballot Measure 2 specifically allows adults 21 or older to give each other up to an ounce of cannabis. For folks keeping score at home, that statute's 17.38.020, clause 3: "... transferring one ounce or less of marijuana and up to six immature marijuana plants to a person who is 21 years of age or older without remuneration."

That set of statutes is titled "Personal use of marijuana," and many regulations being proposed, discussed and propagated right now by the state boards concern the future legal commercial use of marijuana, especially the one being asked about here. And although it may seem strange to read the phrase "legal commercial use of marijuana," that's where this understandable confusion ends.


The proposed regulation does not change the statute in 17.38.020, so AKEngineer will still be free to give a joint (or up to 27.5 grams of them, for that matter) to a friend 21 or older. Cynthia Franklin, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, confirmed that conclusion in an email.

The rule causing AKEngineer's confusion, she wrote, "addresses non-17.38.020 giving and black market selling, distributing and delivering of marijuana," not personal use cannabis.

Generally speaking, statutes guide the efforts of regulators. And here, the statute is crystal clear on the point of regular adult Alaskans giving Jah's Gift to each other from their own stashes. But a regulated industry is a different thing entirely, and whatever form it settles on will be more formal than the world of personal use.

Take the word "consumer" for instance. That word gained a formal statutory definition in connection to cannabis when the initiative took effect, and it describes a narrower sort of person than just someone who partakes.

Under the heading of statute 17.38.900, titled "Definitions," is a list of terms and their explicit meanings, which "unless the context otherwise requires," or unless they're amended by lawmakers, serve to guide regulators.

In that list, a "consumer" is "a person 21 years of age or older who purchases marijuana or marijuana products for personal use by persons 21 years of age or older, but not for resale to others."

So whether a person smokes tree doesn't matter for that definition. The term is a very specific one that describes people who buy it, but not for resale, from a licensed outlet. Technically, to exist, a consumer requires a regulated market, and so far, there isn't one.

It's significant that "personal use" appears in that definition, too. After consumers purchase it, they can smoke it, give it away, fashion a set of gnarly fake eyebrows, or whatever else they want to do with it that's allowed by law. Because it'll be theirs for their own non-commercial use.

Have a question about marijuana news or culture in Alaska? Send it to with "Highly Informed" in the subject line.