Pubdate: Mon, 26 Oct 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Tim Hinterberger
Note: Tim Hinterberger, Ph.D., was a sponsor of Ballot Measure 2 and 
is chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.


The Marijuana Control Board is in the final stages of crafting 
regulations that will guide Alaska's forthcoming legal marijuana 
industry. Proponents of Ballot Measure 2 believe the vast majority of 
rules proposed so far realize both its spirit and intent. However, we 
are concerned that a few remaining provisions overlook important 
rights for Alaskans granted under the initiative. By far the most 
troubling is the fact that the proposed rules do not allow for social 
consumption in any establishments.

Measure 2 was designed to end marijuana prohibition and replace it 
with a system in which marijuana is treated similarly to alcohol. It 
grants many important rights for adults and localities. When we 
drafted Ballot Measure 2, we also made it a point to protect the 
rights of responsible business owners who wish to provide a location 
where adults can consume marijuana with other adults. Those who 
choose to consume marijuana should have the same right to congregate 
as those who choose to use alcohol. By allowing adults to consume 
marijuana legally inside businesses, we reduce the likelihood that 
they'll consume illegally outside in vehicles, on sidewalks and in 
parks. This is especially true when it comes to visitors who often 
don't have other legal options.

Following the passage of the initiative, in a rush to prevent 
unregulated marijuana clubs, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board 
(which held authority over marijuana until the MCB was appointed) 
created a definition of "public" that is exceptionally broad, 
anywhere "a substantial group of persons has access," and the MCB 
never revisited it. In addition to prohibiting consumption on public 
property, it effectively outlaws use inside privately operated 
businesses, at events held inside privately owned venues and 
practically everywhere but inside a private residence.

This was not the intent of Ballot Measure 2. Our goal was simply to 
prohibit consumption outside on streets, sidewalks, and parks, not 
inside private establishments. And we certainly did not intend to 
prohibit consumption inside licensed, regulated marijuana retail businesses.

Unfortunately, the MCB's staff and attorneys claim that the board is 
unable to license and regulate retail shops that would allow on-site 
consumption. This is a misguided interpretation of the language and 
intent of the initiative.

The board is well within its scope of authority to establish various 
types of retail establishment licenses, including those that permit 
adults to consume on-site. Indeed, such a license is essential to the 
MCB's duties.

In fact, the proposed rules already anticipate this authority. One 
particular section, 3 AAC 306.900(b), states that a person or 
business cannot maintain, operate or lease a premises for the purpose 
of providing a place for consuming marijuana "unless the person is 
authorized to do so under this title." This provision only makes 
sense if the MCB has the power to authorize social consumption. The 
board has elsewhere demonstrated its broad authority by creating a 
cultivation broker license, even though Measure 2 does not mention brokers.

Importantly, one of the express purposes of Measure 2 is "allowing 
law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes." Preventing 
adults from consuming socially inside licensed marijuana businesses 
could increase the likelihood that they consume publicly outside on 
the street, creating an unnecessary burden on local law enforcement.

The solution here is clear. The MCB should go back and amend the 
emergency definition of "public" consumption and create a category of 
retail marijuana business with specific regulations for those that 
allow patrons to consume on site. The board should also remove the 
prohibition on marijuana social clubs and create a licensing 
structure for similar business types. Anything less violates the 
intent and language of Ballot Measure 2.

I would like to thank the board and its key support staff who worked 
hard to create workable rules, as well as responsible industry voices 
and activists who advocated for effective rules that honor the spirit 
of the initiative. Let's hope the board can complete this work with a 
set of rules that respects the rights granted under our historic law.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom