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Alaska AG says feds couldn’t overturn state’s pot law

By KTVA / AP 5:09 PM February 23, 2017
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) –

A representative for the Alaska attorney general’s office says a change in how the federal government enforces its own marijuana laws would not affect state marijuana laws.

Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills says Alaska’s law legalizing recreational marijuana wouldn’t be overturned.

She commented after White House spokesman Sean Spicer suggested during a press briefing Thursday that President Donald Trump’s administration might crack down on states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

When asked if the federal government was going to take some sort of action against recreational marijuana in certain states, Spicer responded, “Well, I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it.”

Mills says there is a different federal law, and it will be up to the federal government how they want to enforce that.

Cary Carrigan is executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association (AMIA).

He says it’s too early to get too worked up about Spicer’s comments, and that this sounds like an initial overture.

It’s a sentiment shared by fellow AMIA member Jana Weltzin, a local lawyer who represents a number of the state’s commercial pot shops. She says clients called her left and right after hearing Spicer’s comments.

“I mean my phone’s been going off the hook with, ‘Oh my God, are we going to get shut down now because we don’t have a commercial marijuana system?’” Weltzin said. “’Are we wasting our money? What are we doing here?’”

With Alaska’s budding industry still in its earliest stages, “we get hiccups at every turn, we get people trying to slow the process down,” noted Weltzin.

But another hiccup is not what Alaska needs, she adds, especially in a budget crisis.

“As much as people want to say, ‘Oh it’ll never replace oil,” said Weltzin of the revenue marijuana brings in. “You’re right, but it’s also a drop in an empty bucket. And when you’re thirsty, half a cup will do when you have nothing in your cup.”

She says for now, the president’s threat to wage war against legal weed is just that – a threat, without action just yet.

In an email, Alaska’s Alcohol and Control Office says, for now, the state will continue to stick to its regulations for recreational marijuana.

“We will continue to keep an open line of communication with the federal government, Alaska’s congressional delegation, and licensees,” wrote acting division director Sara Chambers. “Any potential impact on the State’s marijuana licensees and market would be purely speculative.”

KTVA’s Sierra Starks contributed reporting.

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