On-site marijuana consumption is coming to a vote
The Alaska Marijuana Control Board took public testimony Wednesday on a proposal that would allow people to consume marijuana at the place where they buy it.
Erika McConnell, director of Alaska's Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said if the proposal passes, Alaska would be the first state in the country to allow on-site consumption.
"There are certainly states that have indicated that they want on-site consumption but they don't have language yet," McConnell said. "So we really have been inventing the wheel, which always is a little bit scary."
It's not the first time the board has considered allowing retail establishments the ability to let customers sample their products. Last February, the board voted down a similar proposal. McConnell said they've made substantial changes this time around.
"The board has worked really hard to craft something that seems reasonable," she said. "But there's been a lot of comment for and against that the board will have to take into consideration."
The current proposal would allow marijuana retailers to add an endorsement to their license that would permit on-site consumption. Customers would only be allowed to consume products that were purchased on the premises, and they would be limited to one gram of cannabis or 10 milligrams of edibles per day.
Many of those who testified Wednesday favored the proposal, including Lily Bosshart, who owns the cannabis retail store Dankorage.
"It doesn't seem to make sense to say that the product is legal and then have no legal place to consume it. It doesn't feel legal," said Bosshart.
Others pointed out that was a particular problem for tourists.
"We are forcing these people to essentially break the law by consuming in public and leaving them open to a $100 fine on their wonderful trip to Alaska," said Joshua Stahle, of Alaska Leaf Magazine. "That could leave a bad taste in their mouth and make them not want to come back."
George Stewart, a retired Anchorage pulmonologist, argued there were both health and public safety risks to allowing on-site consumption.
"We don't want somebody smoking marijuana and then getting in their car and driving home toxic," Stewart said. "There's no way of stopping them at the moment, until they have a bad accident that we know will happen."
The board is likely to vote on the proposal Thursday during an all day meeting.
McConnell said if it passes, it will head to the Department of Law for review, and then to the lieutenant governor for his signature.
McConnell added that local governments would still have the ability to opt out or amend what would be permitted in their own communities.
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