Alaska Approves On-Site Marijuana Use

Soon, Alaskans will be able to smoke up on-site. Eduardo Verdugo/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Alaska is associated with many good things: cold-weather cruises, salmon bakes, a 1996 feel-good movie starring Pete from Mad Men and a baby polar bear, TK. And now, we can add one more entry to the list: on Tuesday, Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Myers signed new legislation making the state the first to allow on-site consumption at licensed dispensaries. In layman’s terms, if you happen to be passing through the state and you’re over 21, it’s soon going to be totally cool to head into a store, buy a joint, and smoke up on-site.

Beginning April 11th, licensed marijuana dispensary owners can apply for a “special onsite use endorsement” that will allow them to set up designated smoking areas where patrons will be permitted to smoke cannabis. The area will be distinct from the retail space, meaning there’ll likely be a patio or outdoor lounge where customers can smoke, or the two spaces will have to be separated by a door or a wall.

Per the Associated Press, businesses will also have to provide proper security and ventilation so they can meet the approval of the Marijuana Control Board. The regulations also stipulate that vendors will only be allowed to sell up to one gram of cannabis and “edible marijuana products not to exceed 10 mg of THC to any one person per day,” so you can’t just, like, grab 10 edibles at once and go to town on them.

According to Erik Altieri, the executive director of the marijuana law reform organization NORML, Alaska’s legislation is significant — not just for visitors who want to smoke up in public or for the vendors who cater to them, but from a social justice perspective as well.

“By preventing retail outlets and other venues from being licensed and regulated for social consumption, many patients will have to chose between effective cannabis treatment for their ailments or being thrown out of public housing,” Altieri said in a press release. “This causes the civil liberties that come with marijuana legalization to still being kept at arms length from low-income individuals and members of other marginalized communities.” The hope is that businesses being granted on-site consumption endorsements will effectively provide low-income individuals with a safe and legal space to consume marijuana without putting their housing options at risk.

This is not the first time dispensaries in the U.S. have allowed patrons to consume cannabis on site: in San Francisco, for instance, city regulations allow business owners to permit customers to smoke marijuana on site. But Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, told the AP that this marks the first time that public marijuana consumption at retail shops has been OK’ed by state law.

“This is something that’s not happening anywhere else in the U.S. yet,” he said. “As we start to develop this, people are really looking at us, so I know that everybody wants to get it right.”

For this reason, Carrigan said it’ll probably take a few months before retailers in Alaska start implementing the public smoking areas. But in the interim, Alaskans, feel free to buy a joint, head home, stream Alaska on Amazon Prime, and light up to your heart’s content.

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