On August 10 and 11, 2015, Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board met to unveil and discuss proposed regulations to the state’s recreational marijuana market. Over those two days, citizens and business owners voiced their comments and concerns to the board. The Marijuana Control Board faces the daunting task of weighing the interests of businesses, the populace and the federal government.
The first day saw a handful of protestors carrying signs that had slogans like “Respect The Vote” and “Cannabis is not spice.” Many in the marijuana community were upset with the board for cracking down on marijuana-related businesses, specifically marijuana social clubs.
These marijuana social clubs did not sell marijuana nor did they give marijuana away in exchange for “donations.” Instead, for a small membership fee, the businesses provided a place for marijuana users to congregate and enjoy their own marijuana.
However, the board saw these clubs as analogous to bottle clubs, which operate under the same premise of marijuana social clubs but with alcohol. In Alaska, bottle clubs have been illegal for more than 30 years and so it made little sense to allow marijuana clubs, especially when the goal of Measure 2 was to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
According to KTUU, several business owners who were recently served warrants from the Anchorage Police Department showed up to the meeting to voice their concern.
“I wanted to be there to fill a need for community members whose quality of life matters now,” said Theresa Collins of Pot Luck Events. “It’s a private club. If you walk by our location, you can’t even tell what’s going on inside of our building.”
Nevertheless, the board plans to continue its push for a ban on social clubs.
The second day of the board’s meeting was much more subdued, but little more was accomplished. In the eight hour meeting, the board was only able to get to one of the three planned areas of discussion for that meeting: licensing, fees and zoning regulations.
Board member Brandon Emmet, who represents the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation in Alaska campaign, requested that the board revise its buffer zone rules. As the rule stood, marijuana businesses were disallowed from being within 200 feet of a school, day care, nursery or religious building.
Emmet believed that the terms “school” and “day care” were too broad, and was concerned whether it could be misinterpreted; for example, would day cares run out of the home be counted?
After a brief back and forth between board director Cynthia Franklin, the board voted on a compromise of changing the buffer zone to 500 feet and rewording the rule to “school or recreation or youth center.”
Among other changes, the board struck down a provision requiring applicants for a marijuana business license to include the social security number of family members and another provision that barred marijuana businesses to open up adjacent to liquor stores.
Because the board only addressed one out of the three regulatory areas, another meeting will take place toward the end of this month and before the previously scheduled September meeting. Since the legislature only budgeted for a certain number of meetings, the extra meeting will most likely happen digitally or via teleconference.