Alaska could soon become the first place in the United States to allow public consumption of marijuana.
The state’s Marijuana Control Board voted in November to let cannabis customers use pot at the shops where they buy it. The vote doesn’t mean weed clubs will be opening anytime soon, but it greatly increases the likelihood stoners will be able to toke in limited public places.
Alaska voters legalized marijuana for personal use in 2014, joining Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and the District of Columbia. The first retail stores are set to open next year.
Public toking is explicitly banned under the new law, and that means most potheads may only consume the drug at home. The same is true in the other states that allow recreational cannabis, but Alaska could soon chart its own course on the subject.
Alaska seeking to be first state allowing ‘public’ consumption
The vote is only a first step. The state’s lieutenant governor, a Democrat, must approve it before it can take effect. But if he does, the new policy would go a long way toward addressing a common complaint from stoners.
In Colorado and other places where marijuana is legal for recreation, many users, whether tourists or residents, smoke in their cars, often while driving, because they cannot smoke anywhere else. The prospect of motorists who toke behind the wheel may ultimately prove scarier to regulators than the prospect of stoners driving home after a Saturday night out.
Attempts to create an exception for commercial cannabis clubs have failed in other places, though advocates continue to try in Colorado. Activists in Alaska have pushed for clubs since weed was legalized, but regulators insist they’re illegal. State officials determined after the 2014 vote that members-only clubs, which are still common across Alaska, qualify as public places and thus cannot allow smoking.
The vote by the Marijuana Control Board would change that. The only two members who voted against it represent the public health sector and the public safety industry. Cops and doctors have been especially slow in accepting the reality of marijuana reform.
Discussions detailing retail smoking areas have been delayed
Alaska’s public lawyers will review the policy before Mallott decides to sign it or reject it. Until that time, the board has delayed more detailed discussions of what retail smoking areas would look like or how they would be installed.
Any toking would take place outdoors, as Alaska’s tobacco laws prohibit any indoor smoking in commercial settings. That could leave tokers with a less-than-pleasant prospect during the state’s notorious winters.
The decision to treat clubs as public spaces drew heated debate, with marijuana advocates noting that a lack of gathering spots could make the roads more dangerous. In August board members took steps to ban all clubs, but the move drew immediate negative reaction from the public.
At the time, board members said they had no choice because the legalization statute only allows for four kinds of marijuana business licenses: retail, manufacturing, cultivation, and testing laboratory.
When they revisited the issue in November, they adopted new rules allowing retail license holders to designate space for on-site consumption. The rules also would redefine shops as private spaces, not public.
Do you think is a good move? Should people be allowed to use cannabis in retail stores? Let us know in the comments.