Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2015
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Fairbanks Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: Amanda Bohman


FAIRBANKS - Marijuana becomes legal in two days, but where it will be 
allowed to be used remains a bit hazy.

Public consumption of pot remains prohibited, but local leaders 
continue to debate the definition of public place.

And uncertainty about pending state legislation on marijuana has left 
the Alaska State Troopers no clear direction about how to enforce it.

In the Interior, most of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and beyond 
falls under trooper jurisdiction.

Troopers spokesman Tim Despain said the agency has a plan for how 
marijuana enforcement will work starting Tuesday. But with different 
marijuana bills still before the Alaska Legislature and an emergency 
meeting of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board set to begin at 7 
a.m. Tuesday in Anchorage, there are too many unknowns to go into 
specifics about trooper enforcement of the new law, he said.

"All of these things, which have yet to occur, do not allow us to 
provide a specific answer as to what law enforcement's response will 
be on Feb. 24," Despain said.

Possessing an ounce of marijuana outside of the home by a person 21 
or older will be legal under the law approved by voters in November. 
Consuming marijuana in public remains illegal and is punishable by a 
$100 fine. The law also allows people older than 21 to have six 
marijuana plants and to trade pot. Regulations enacting provisions of 
the new law pertaining to the setting up and licensing of marijuana 
retail establishments are required to be in place later this year.

The ABC Board is providing information about the new law, including a 
question and answer section, on its website at

"Although I cannot speak specifically as to directions being given 
Alaska State Troopers, I can speak generally as to law enforcement," 
ABC Board Executive Director Cynthia Franklin said in an email 
response to questions.

Franklin said "anyone buying, selling or possessing more than one 
ounce of marijuana outside of their home on or after Feb. 24 will be 
subject to current legal penalties."

The word "public" when it comes to "public place" has become a point 
of much discussion among Alaska's state and local leaders.

Public place is defined in Alaska criminal statutes as "a place to 
which the public or a substantial group of persons has access." The 
statute lists about a dozen examples, including schools, parks, 
highways, bus stops, businesses and apartment building lobbies and hallways.

Franklin said she expects the ABC Board will discuss the definition 
for public place at its Tuesday morning meeting.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will take up the definition 
next week, as will the Fairbanks City Council.

North Pole already has established a new marijuana ordinance, which 
allows marijuana use on private property, indoors or outdoors, so 
long as it's not a nuisance. Nuisance wasn't defined, but Police 
Chief Steve Dutra said he knows it when he sees it.

The Fairbanks City Council is taking up a similar ordinance on 
Monday. The measure by Councilman David Pruhs would permit marijuana 
use anywhere on private property and does not have a nuisance clause. 
If approved, the measure would guide the response of the Fairbanks 
Police Department.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins is looking to be more restrictive, 
prohibiting marijuana use in public view. His ordinance goes before 
the assembly on Thursday.

Under Hopkins' measure, marijuana consumption would be prohibited "in 
any outdoor location where the consumption of marijuana is clearly 
observable" from a public place. The measure would forbid marijuana 
use on lakes and rivers in the borough.

The borough has no police powers, though borough employees carry out 
some code enforcement. An example is animal control.

Hopkins told assembly members at a work session Fairbanks school 
district officials are "really aware" of the new marijuana laws and 
that he is trying to help discourage marijuana use among youths.

Karl Kassel, presiding officer of the assembly, said he's not sure 
the mayor's proposal is in the spirit of the new state law, which was 
characterized to the voters as aiming to regulate marijuana like 
alcohol. Alcohol consumption is not regulated on private property.

Kassel said he doesn't like the idea of regulating an act allowed 
under state law and that would occur on private property.

"Our personal freedoms and what we do on our private property, that 
isn't really affecting other individuals," he said.

Assemblyman Christopher Quist asked if the intent of Hopkins' 
ordinance is to protect young people, then why are other substances 
allowed to be consumed in public view?

"You can smoke a cigarette on your front lawn," Quist said. "I think 
in most people's minds, their lawn, be it the front of the house or 
the back of the house, is not a public place."

Assemblywoman Diane Hutchison pointed out some actions that might 
occur on a person's front yard are unlawful.

"Can somebody in their private yard right now go around nude if 
people can see them?" she asked during the work session.

No, said assistant borough attorney Jill Dolan, a former prosecutor; 
that would be the crime of indecent exposure.

Hopkins' proposal outlines no penalties or enforcement mechanism. 
Police and troopers enforce other borough laws such as curfews.

It's unclear whose marijuana law would prevail with multiple 
governments making their own rules. That issue may need to be sorted 
out by the Legislature, Dolan said.

Assemblyman Guy Sattley lamented the different marijuana rules being 
set up by various governments.

"It would save a lot of headaches if the state and the borough and 
the city all had the same rules," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom