Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jan 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


A possible delay on implementing marijuana concentrate regulations in 
Alaska has proponents of legalization fuming.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, pre-filed House Bill 59 Friday, which is 
intended to provide guidance on marijuana concentrates. The bill 
includes several provisions on dealing with the substances, including 
delaying the regulations on concentrates for up to a year.

The bill includes an amended definition of what marijuana 
concentrates are. In that definition, it specifically excludes 
hashish and hashish oil. The latter is better known as hash oil, a 
concentrated form of marijuana that faced scrutiny due to its method 
of manufacture, in the debate over Ballot Measure 2, the initiative 
legalizing recreational marijuana.

Seaton said in an interview Friday he supported the initiative and 
voted for it in November. But he said that when Alaskans voted for 
the measure they might not have realized what the substance entails. 
In his view, marijuana includes two separate parts: marijuana plants 
and marijuana concentrates.

He said the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board or marijuana control 
board (if created by the Legislature) would already have plenty to do 
when it comes to creating marijuana regulations. He hopes his bill 
will at least help clarify the concentrate portion of the law.

He also said that extending the timeline means the board could 
potentially finish crafting concentrate regulations earlier than his 
proposed November 2016 deadline. That's a year after when regulations 
should be drafted, according to provisions in the ballot initiative.

"I think the board would be much better able to serve its functions 
and come out with better thought-out and well-researched regulations 
and allow more public comment if the regulations are split in to 
those two sections," he said.

He left hash oil out of the definition of marijuana concentrates 
because he wanted to make sure it's specifically addressed by the Legislature.

"I don't have any solutions or any way I personally think that should 
go, but it needs to be one clarification or point of discussion," Seaton said.

Supporters of the initiative condemned the bill, saying the timeline 
as laid out in the initiative should be followed. Some supporters 
worry that a delay during the rulemaking process could potentially 
lead to a repeal of the initiative in two years, when the Legislature 
can first take such an action against voter initiatives.

"The Legislature has important roles to play in creating effective 
marijuana policy, but delaying implementation of the initiative is 
not one of them, nor is changing the definition of marijuana that the 
voters approved in November," Ballot Measure 2 co-sponsor Tim 
Hinterberger said in a statement Friday. "Not only would Rep. 
Seaton's proposal defy the will of the voters, it is not legal and 
would open the state up to costly litigation, which it would surely 
lose. The state should move forward with implementing what Alaska 
voters approved, not try to roll it back."

Bruce Schulte, spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis 
Legislation said in a statement the bill was "troubling" on multiple levels.

"It imposes yet another delay on implementation which has become the 
preferred tactic of opponents of this initiative," he said. "It seems 
that they will do whatever they can to push implementation off long 
enough to allow the legislature to simply repeal the law that voters approved."

Jeff Jessee, CEO of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and an 
opponent of Ballot Measure 2, said in an interview Friday he supports 
the idea of taking more time for regulations. He just finished 
attending a three-day conference in Colorado on the impacts of 
marijuana legalization. He learned from the conference that Colorado 
and Washington's regulatory frameworks are still evolving, he said. 
He encouraged taking longer in an effort to expand public engagement.

"It seems to me that if you wanted to have a process that really got 
the issues out in to the public domain and discuss the various policy 
options, it's going to take a while," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom