News from Patrick Flynn

A hazy future?

So many questions, so little time, but probably appropriate to give more thought to local regulation of legal marijuana, approved by Alaska voters last November.

I’ve fielded a significant number of messages about the topic. Some complaining about use by adjacent apartment/condo residents, some complaining about excess enforcement as we await state regulations, some decrying the “moral decay” of our society and some wondering why we worry about this substance given the problems caused by “spice” (euphemistically referred to as “synthetic marijuana”). And, of course, that merely scratches the surface.

First off, I think the idea to model marijuana regulation on how we regulate alcohol was not the wisest choice. Having dealt with alcohol regulation for quite a while, calling it a mess insults the relatively modest messes my sons create on a regular basis. That said, that’s what was proposed and approved so the question is where to we go from here? Here are some basic stipulations to start the discussion:

  • Consumption of marijuana in private residences is now legal.
  • Public sale of marijuana will soon be legal.
  • Public consumption of marijuana needs to be addressed.

Additional factors to consider:

  • Anchorage has hundreds of thousands of annual visitors.
  • Many of those visitors stay in hotels that appropriately prohibit, due to health factors, smoking.
  • Smoking is also prohibited in places of business.
  • Public (outdoor) consumption of marijuana remains illegal.
  • In other jurisdictions where recreational use of marijuana has been legalized there are incidents of public (outdoor) consumption, despite laws to the contrary.
  • Similar to consumption of alcohol, it is preferable that public consumption of marijuana takes place out of sight (and scent) of minors and the general public.
  • Given the above, many potential users of marijuana in Anchorage have no legal venue for consumption.

Let’s get a little more specific. This summer members of the cannabis industry organized a convention at the Dena’ina Center. The municipal legal department and the Assembly spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to accommodate the event in a licit fashion at a public facility, which we did.

Given that, and despite a prohibition on public consumption of alcohol, private users of the Dena’ina Center can sell and consume alcohol it occurred to me that, at the very least, we should figure out a way to allow for marijuana consumption (sales remaining illegal until the regulatory process runs it course) by conventioneers. Indeed, it seemed naïve to assume cannabis advocates would forgo any consumption while surrounded by fellow travelers.

My suggestion was to allow erection of a walled tent on the patio, where smoking is permitted, and require ID checks to ensure it was not accessible to minors. That would’ve allowed those bringing their own, personal and legal, marijuana to consume it in a licit faction. The idea didn’t get much traction and wasn’t approved.

The aftermath? A sternly worded e-mail from the municipal attorney to event organizers reacting negatively to reports of consumption at the event. Such a surprise – perhaps the tent wasn’t such a bad idea?

In any event, here are some potential steps forward (and this is where feedback would be particularly helpful):

  • Anchorage could create a framework for businesses that allow for limited-access (e.g. no minors allowed and out of sight of the general population), public consumption of marijuana.
  • Anchorage would need to develop a process for permitting such establishments.
  • Because smoking is a common technique for ingesting marijuana, this may require allowing establishments where tobacco may be consumed.  (This should not be construed as to allowing bars, restaurants and other business providing additional products or services to permit indoor smoking.)
  • Clear standards for ventilation, air purification and other health considerations would need to be promulgated.
  • Similar to the TAM process, employees in such establishments should undergo training to recognize impairment and be empowered to prevent excess consumption.
  • Upon developing draft standards Anchorage should submit them as comments to the state Marijuana Control Board for consideration during the regulatory process.

As I started, many questions to consider. I’m pretty sure there’s no single correct answer, or set thereof, but much to do to sort it all out.



This contribution was made on Wednesday, 19. August 2015 at 19:09 and was published under the category Neighborhoods. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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