Regulations were officially approved in Alaska to allow cannabis dispensaries to apply for on-site consumption permits.
While some city ordinances in states like California, where cannabis is also legal, have allowed some in-store cannabis use, Alaska is the first state to establish a statewide licensing system to permit patrons to use the cannabis products they purchase before leaving the dispensary.
The on-site cannabis consumption licensing process can be compared to the process used to permit bars and restaurants to serve alcohol on-site. The retail locations must meet certain requirements in order to operate.
Retail shops may begin applying for an on-site consumption license as early as April 11 of this year, but Alaskans are not expected to see the new law in action before the middle of July, according to Erika McConnell, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.
Executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association Cary Carrigan warns that Alaskans should not expect very many dispensaries to begin offering on-site use right away.
“This is something that’s not happening anywhere else in the U.S. yet,” Carrigan told the Associated Press. “As we start to develop this, people are really looking at us, so I know that everybody wants to get it right.” Rolling out a program like this takes time and patience, and changes can still be made depending on the feedback received between now and then.
“I don’t want to have to get this pulled back and revisited,” Carrigan added.
In order for an on-site consumption application to be considered for a permit, the dispensary must first meet several special requirements. For example, only dispensaries located in free standing buildings will be considered. Any shop that is located in a strip mall or connected in any other way to another business or building will not be allowed to apply for a license. It is possible that in the future dispensaries may be allowed to apply for edibles-only consumption permits even if they are not free standing.
In order to apply for a permit, the business will also have to install a high-quality ventilation system and take other security measures.
To comply with the state’s existing cigarette smoking laws, the cannabis-smoking section must be kept separate from the retail portion of the facility where patrons make their purchases. On top of that, assuming the retail location wants to allow patrons to smoke dried cannabis flower on-site, a separate, smoke-free area must also be built for employees to be able to monitor the consuming-section without being subjected to smoke inhalation.
Dispensary customers will not be permitted to use cannabis products that they bring from home or buy from a different location. All products that are used on-site must have been purchased on-site.
Local governments will be able to decide whether or not on-site consumption permits will be issued in their jurisdiction. They will also be able to ban only certain types of methods of administration like smoking. Those who choose to ban smoking may decide to allow vaporizing or eating edibles. Each municipality will be able to decide what fits best for their residents.
Allowing on-site consumption will be a game changer in Alaska, especially for tourists. Like in most states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use, it remains illegal to consume in public places like hotels, Airbnb rentals, parks, the sidewalk, etc. This often leaves tourists and property renters without a safe space to consume the cannabis products they can legally buy. Allowing for on-site use will change that.