Public Consumption Gets Another Go in Alaska

A proposal to allow open consumption at Alaska’s retail cannabis dispensaries was narrowly rejected by state regulators in February. Now members of the Anchorage Assembly are urging lawmakers to pass a rule allowing social cannabis consumption.

In a resolution adopted Tuesday night, first reported by the Alaska Dispatch News, the Assembly urged cannabis regulators to OK public consumption. The resolution comes as the Alaska Marijuana Control Board prepares to meet in Fairbanks this week. During that meeting, the regulatory board is expected to discuss several proposals related to cannabis consumption in dispensaries.

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In February of this year, regulators voted 3-2 to reject a proposal that would have made Alaska the state the first state in the country to allow cannabis customers to purchase and consume products at dispensaries.

The issue has become a contentious one, as some in the state have suggested pandemonium could ensue during summer months—Alaska’s busiest tourism season—if tourists aren’t provided with any legal place to consume. Industry members have pointed to the many cruise ships that make their way up to the state, noting that passengers eager to buy legal cannabis products won’t have any acceptable place to enjoy them.

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More than 2 million tourists visited in Alaska in 2016, and just over half of those arrived on cruise ships. Visitors spent $1.9 billion in Alaska during fiscal year 2014-15, according to the Associated Press, with most of that money coming in the summertime.

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Christopher Constant, an Anchorage Assembly member who represents downtown, has spearheaded the resolution. He’s said he’s worried about widespread public consumption in parks and other public areas, according to the Dispatch.

Constant stressed he didn’t intend the resolution to be a mere policy statement. Rather, he said, it is meant to nudge the Marijuana Control Board members into taking some kind of action.