Pubdate: Wed, 26 Aug 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Devin Kelly


Anchorage Assembly Extends Open-Container Laws to Pot

Anchorage drivers will soon be required to keep marijuana in the 
trunk of their cars, with the city Assembly voting Tuesday night to 
expand local alcohol beverage open-container laws to include marijuana.

The new open-container restrictions were among a set of 
marijuana-related ordinances unanimously adopted by the Assembly 
Tuesday night. The others covered the use of a fake ID or other 
fraudulent means to buy marijuana; the inclusion of marijuana in 
existing laws that prohibit minors from driving under the influence; 
and the further definition and restriction of the personal 
cultivation of marijuana.

Characterized mostly as "housekeeping" by Assembly member and 
co-sponsor Ernie Hall, the ordinances reflect how city lawmakers are 
working to bring municipal code in line with state statute. That 
includes incorporating the language of the statute approved by voters 
in November, and expanding portions of local law on alcoholic 
beverages to include marijuana.

Since the start of this year, the Assembly has passed measures that 
ban consumption in a public place, and include marijuana smoke under 
the city's ban on tobacco smoke.

In the case of expanding the city's open-container laws, the new 
rules -- which take effect in 30 days -- require marijuana to be kept 
out of the passenger compartment of a vehicle. That generally means 
keeping cannabis in the trunk.

The law includes an exception for cannabis "in the possession of a 
passenger in a motor vehicle for which the owner receives direct 
monetary compensation and that has a capacity of 12 or more persons," 
like a charter bus. In a station wagon, hatchback or other vehicle 
without a trunk, marijuana should be stored "behind the last upright 
seat." Marijuana can be legally transported via motorcycle.

Passengers riding in a licensed limousine could carry marijuana as 
long as the windows are tinted and the partition between driver and 
passengers is closed. The ordinance doesn't specify whether 
marijuana, like alcohol, could be consumed inside a limo.

A statewide measure to expand open-container laws to include 
marijuana was recently adopted in Washington state. City prosecutor 
Seneca Theno said the Anchorage law is designed to avoid confusion 
seen in Colorado about whether or not a container was defined as 
"open" and simply require drivers to keep cannabis in the trunk of a car.

Theno said city attorneys don't have immediate plans for additional 
criminal ordinances beyond the ones adopted Tuesday. Attention is now 
turning to city planning and licensing laws, she said.

Hall said a Wednesday afternoon meeting of the Assembly's committee 
on marijuana regulation and taxation is expected to include 
discussion about city zoning laws.

Spice updates

Also on Tuesday, the city's police and fire chiefs gave brief updates 
on efforts to contain the spread of the synthetic drug Spice, which 
has been blamed for a spate of deaths and hospitalizations across 
Anchorage this summer.

Fire chief Denis LeBlanc said there appeared to be two different 
varieties of the drug in Anchorage. He said multiple city agencies 
are trying to put together a task force to tackle the problem.

He also said that on Sunday, emergency crews picked up people that 
were still wearing hospital bracelets from being released the day before.

"There's a lot of repeat ... frequent fliers," LeBlanc said.

Police Chief Mark Mew, said police had identified a "handful" of 
people that may be responsible for selling the product in the area of 
Third Avenue and Karluk Street. He said he believed at least one 
arrest had been made, although he wasn't sure if it was explicitly 
related to Spice, or if it was for a different reason, like an 
outstanding warrant.

Assembly member Paul Honeman, the chair of the Assembly's public 
safety committee, questioned the chief about whether the Assembly 
should pass an emergency measure to more harshly penalize the 
distribution of the drug. Mew acknowledged that city misdemeanor laws 
have proven ineffective.

Honeman said city attorneys are looking at ordinances elsewhere in 
the country that could help police make arrests in the sale of 
substances that cause serious health concerns or hospitalization.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom