House panel advances bill creating Alaska marijuana control board

JUNEAU — A bill to create a marijuana board moved forward in the House on Wednesday.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced a new version of a bill to create a board to help regulate the commercial marijuana industry. It now goes to House Finance for consideration.

The bill, introduced by Gov. Bill Walker, would create a five-member board to develop regulations and consider applicants for marijuana businesses.

As proposed, the board would include one representative each from the public health and safety sectors; one or two representatives of the legal marijuana industry or those with academic or advocacy perspectives on marijuana; a rural Alaska representative; and a member of the public if there is just one industry representative.

The new version of the bill specified that the rural representative had to live in a community of 7,000 people or less that is not connected to Fairbanks or Anchorage by road or rail, or a community of 2,000 or less that is connected to Fairbanks or Anchorage by road or rail. The prior version of the bill called for that representative to have lived in rural Alaska for about six months within the last five years, and had a lower threshold for the size of a rural community that would have precluded Bethel residents.

The bill also specifies that the board controls marijuana cultivation, manufacture and sale but not possession, as prior versions said.

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, proposed an amendment that would have disallowed the board from granting a marijuana business license to someone with a felony conviction within five years of their application, or a misdemeanor conviction related to a controlled substance within three years of their application. That failed.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, said he would prefer to see the specifics of who could receive a license determined by the board in regulation, rather than the Legislature setting that out in law. Claman also noted that such a regulation could hinder the state's efforts to move the illegal marijuana market into the new legalized system.