11.24.2015
policy

Alaska Says Using Weed in Pot Shops Is Cool, Changes History

The northernmost state has altered the course of the weed world, for the better.

Three people in the town of Juneau, Alaska, put a marijuana revolution into motion this past Friday. The trio of cannabis visionaries formed a majority of Alaska’s five-person Marijuana Control Board and voted 3-2 to allow in-shop weed consumption in a number of the state’s recreational dispensaries, none of which are open yet.

Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Associated Press: “This would put, I think, Alaska in the forefront on this issue.” Lindsey’s assertion puts him in the forefront for 2015’s Understatement of the Year Award.

Of the four states that currently boast legalized recreational marijuana production, sales and consumption—Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska—exactly zero provide for consumption of the product in any space other than a private residence. There is a legislative lag between acknowledging an individual’s private rights and granting the individual’s public privilege.

Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board tightened up that lag by redefining the term in public.

Don’t go ahead and book that Alaska bud-and-ice interior cruise. 

A year ago, Alaskan voters passed a measure legalizing recreational weed for enlightened consumers 21 years of age and older, but banning public consumption of the weed. The initiative neglected to define public. That lucky negligence gave Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board the wiggle room it needed to put history in motion.

Alaska’s smoke-on-site regulations, if adopted and upheld in a legal review by the state’s Department of Law, will set the northern territory’s cannabis economy apart from the sales climate in Washington, Oregon, or Colorado, where canna-tourists have complained that they are at liberty to buy a product that they are restricted from using.

Alaska’s move to allow consumption in a regulated space that is outside a consumer’s private home has ramifications beyond Colorado, Washington, or Oregon. The larger effect will be seen in the nine states that are expected to vote on legalizing recreational weed in 2016.

How many of these nine states will follow Alaska’s lead and move into (what you’ve got to hope is) the inevitable progress toward a reasoned policy of socialized marijuana consumption? And, conversely,  how many of those nine states will ensure that the word public is clearly defined in the most restrictive terms possible?

While pondering these variables, don’t go ahead and book that Alaska bud-and-ice interior cruise. Despite the electorate expressing its will a year ago to light up legally, buying weed in the state is still illegal. Business applications for growers and dispensers won’t even be accepted until February 2016.

Progress in the 50th state is slow, glacial you might say, but Alaska is still ahead of everyone else.

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