The rules and regulations, defining what is to be considered public consumption regarding marijuana, were established during a recent Anchorage Assembly meeting. After hearing testimony from both proponents and opponents, an ordinance banning public consumption of cannabis received unanimous support.

The personal use provisions of Ballot Measure 2, which was approved by voters last election day and legalizes recreational marijuana in Alaska, go into effect at the end of February. At that time, the nine-month countdown begins where the state will establish a system for licensing retail dispensaries. In the meantime, Alaskans will legally be permitted to possess up to one ounce of dried cannabis flowers, and to grow up to 6 plants at home.

Public consumption of the plant, however, is strictly banned under this ordinance and will be enforced in Anchorage. A person caught using marijuana in public will face a civil ticket and fine of up to $100. Mark Mew, Anchorage Chief of Police, presented testimony at the ordinance hearing that he wanted to establish exactly what will be considered public consumption before there are any complications. Mew reported,

“Trying to cure it down the road will be much worse unless we set the standard from the beginning. We don’t want to educate (the) public that we can’t enforce it by our inaction and try to get it back six months from now.”

Although the ordinance bans public consumption, it defines public in the same manner that the city’s alcohol ordinance defines the word. Those facilities that possess a license or permit to allow consumption of alcohol, like bars and restaurants, are exempt from the public consumption ordinance. Therefore, any business that is able to receive a permit to allow patrons to consume cannabis within the establishment will be exempt from the public use ban.

No regulations regarding the licensing process of future cannabis clubs were voted on, but this definition of public opens the door to licensing or awarding permits for marijuana cafes, vapor lounges and social clubs in the future.

Representative of the Alaska Cannabis Association, Joanne Henning, was at the Assembly meeting to make sure that the panel was able to see the big picture. Henning testified at the hearing,

“We voted to control it like alcohol; we want a safe place to consume it like alcohol.”

Without establishing a place for adults to legally consume cannabis, it sets people up to break the law. Residents living in apartment buildings and rental properties, and tourists staying at hotels, will not have a legal place to consume marijuana in a legal state without providing them with somewhere to go.

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