Pubdate: Fri, 25 Sep 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Laurel Andrews


If Alaskans want legal marijuana social clubs, they'll have to ask 
the Legislature. That was the Marijuana Control Board's message 
Thursday as it accepted proposed regulations that would specifically 
prohibit the clubs unless a license type is created by lawmakers.

The vote was taken during the board's two-day meeting in Anchorage 
this week as the clock ticks down to Nov. 24, the day by which all of 
Alaska's marijuana regulations must be complete.

The decision was met with dismay by Theresa Collins, owner of Pot 
Luck Events in Anchorage, whose social club has been operating since 
March. Her club is one of several around the state that have opened 
following Alaska's vote to legalize recreational marijuana use in 
November 2014.

"I'm still going to stand up for what's right," Collins said after 
the vote. Her business will remain open for now, she said. She also 
expressed optimism that the Legislature will support the creation of 
a social club license.

The crux of the issue is that social clubs are not included as a 
license type under Alaska's marijuana statutes. That means the board 
can't make regulations about that type of business, assistant 
attorney general Harriet Milks told the board. The initiative only 
mentions four license types -- cultivation, retail, manufacturing and 
testing facilities -- over which the board can govern.

Four board members voted in favor of the section specifically banning 
social clubs, with marijuana industry representative Brandon Emmett 
voting against it. Emmett argued that the section was one of the 
"most popular and controversial" sections the board has looked at; he 
said that by specifically prohibiting clubs instead of remaining 
silent on the issue, it would "send a message" to the Legislature 
that the board is against these businesses.

Board member Mark Springer, who represents rural Alaska, disagreed. 
"We need some legislative guidance on this," he said. "I think that 
right now, since (clubs are not) authorized, we may as well say they're not."

Emmett worried that the Legislature "is not going to get around to 
it," citing the fact that only one piece of marijuana legislation 
passed last session, despite ample work done on multiple bills that 
stalled as the session came to a close.

Milks said the Department of Law understands that during the next 
legislative session, a bill will be put forward authorizing some sort 
of club. "It's not your problem to fix at this time," Milks said of the clubs.

"I don't think, honestly, that this is going to escape the 
Legislature's notice," Milks added later.

The social club issue was the most heated of all issues discussed 
during the two-day meeting in Anchorage. The day before, Sept. 23, 
the board pored over sections defining manufacturing and testing 
facility licenses, as well as civil fines, making minor tweaks to 
some of the text but voting to accept the text as written, for now.

On Thursday, civil fines came up again, and the board added wording 
that would allow not just businesses but licensees or people to be 
fined civilly, or have their licenses revoked and marijuana seized.

The board has the power to hit violators with fines, too, Milks said, 
under the opinion of Alaska's Department of Law.

A person or business illegally selling marijuana would face a $5,000 
fine for each sale under the proposed regulations.

Businesses that violate license provisions could be fined up to 
$10,000 for the first violation and up to $50,000 for the third violation.

On Thursday the board accepted the entire regulations, all of which 
have now been part of the public comment process.

The board's deadline is fast approaching. Two months remain before 
all rules must be in place.

Now, the entirety of the regulations -- three sets that define 
everything from packaging requirements to the distance a business 
must be from a school -- will go back out before the public for one 
last chance to comment.

The proposed regulations will be up online on either Oct. 2 or 5, 
Alcoholic Beverage Control and Marijuana Control Board director 
Cynthia Franklin said. Oral public comment will be taken on Oct. 15 
and 16 in Anchorage and written comment will be accepted through Nov. 11.

On Nov. 20, the board will meet for one day only to make any 
remaining changes to the initial rules that will define Alaska's 
fledgling legal industry.

"Now is the time for the public to weigh in," Milks said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom