By Lindsey Rinehart
Alaskan's are anxiously waiting for their recreational market to begin licensing in February of 2016. Once approved, recreational cannabis sales will begin as early as May 2016, but first the rules need finalized. Often when rules are being formed, there is a medical cannabis program to balance with, but this is not the case in Alaska, as there is not a real medical program in place. Alaskan's use an affirmative defense law and a statute to protect their patients and small grows. The Alaska Marijuana Control Board is drafting the regulations only based off of the recreational laws just passed, but unfortunately the early drafts left many local Alaska activists asking for more people to offer comment to better educate the board. The Alaska Marijuana Control Board will allow public testimony from other states. This is how you can help!
Theresa Collins, the Founder of Pot Luck Events in Anchorage Alaska, and her partners, are fighting to stay open and continue serving their 1800+ members by providing a safe place to consume cannabis. Alaskans feel a very strong love for their cannabis "clubs," or what other parts of the country refer to as lounges. These clubs are currently banned in the draft rules from the Alaska Marijuana Control Board, but clubs are already open and operational in both Anchorage and Kenai, and combined- are offering over 3,000 people a safe place to consume cannabis. Alaska has a huge tourist element as well, with over 2 million people visiting per year. Public consumption is not allowed, leaving people literally smoking cannabis on the streets, illegally. Safe access has always been at the heart of the cannabis argument and these clubs are not dispensing cannabis. Why would the board not allow a safe place to consume it the cannabis sold? Another argument is that bars are a legal place to consume alcohol, and cannabis is supposed to be regulated similar to alcohol. The difference in this situation is that these businesses are not even selling cannabis when bars do sell alcohol, and they just want to provide a safe environment to consume cannabis and ensure a great time. Please help encourage the board to allow cannabis clubs as a safe place to use cannabis.
The next biggest concern for many is a bizarre rule that cannabis extracts should have a 76% THC limit, because the state's alcohol limit is 76%. In this case, treating cannabis like alcohol could likely not go much more wrong. In searching through hundreds of Oregon extract tests from two different processors, I was only able to locate 3 tests that were actually able to meet Alaska's requirement. In order to make an extract with that low of THC, many processors argue that they would have to adulterate their solvents, or their end products. Adulterated product is potentially unsafe. Consumers could potentially make black-market concentrates that test over 76% from the privacy of their own home, while simultaneously potentially posing a threat to public safety if they chose to make those extracts improperly. Cannabis should be regulated Similar to alcohol, but this board needs to remember that they are not the same substance, and that prohibition doesn't work.
Another point of contention in Alaska is the cannabinoid serving size of 5mg for a recreational edible. Washington and Colorado both use a 10mg serving size and generally the recreational customers are satisfied with the milligram doses. If the doses are set too low, there isn't an incentive to really use the edibles recreationally as the effect will barely be felt. This would mean that people would have to consume more calories and sugar to get the dose that they desire. Cannabis is safer than alcohol and we should give the incentive to use a safer substance, and encourage public safety. Patients are not considered in the draft making process, but these laws will affect them as well, as there are not separate rules to offer them proper protections. Patients consume between 25-2000mg of THC per day, depending on the need. This rule needs to be changed to allow a higher content per serving, as well as a waiver that if the edibles are medicine than the rule is waived.
A medible issue that local Alaskan's have taken in the draft is that all medibles would be required to be made in a commercial kitchen, but the rule also didn't allow for that kitchen to be used in non-cannabis food production. The cost of starting a commercial kitchen is not conducive to having a small start-up. The space can be safely shared with others who do not produce food with cannabinoids in it. The way to do this is to use dedicated equipment for each process, and proper scheduling for production and storage.
In this draft, Alaska is not allowing for out of state investors. However, the banks won't loan the cannabis industry money, start-ups are expensive, and Alaska's population is not large (well under a million people). Many Alaskan's feel that allowing out-of-state money, from accredited investors is a prudent request.
Lastly, in the draft rules trim is treated the same as flower at the point of taxation. The rule is that the tax is $50 per ounce for both flower and for trim, but trim is not nearly as valuable as the flowers are. Some Alaska activists have stated that they feel the appropriate tax is $5 per pound for trim.
Please e-mail John.firstname.lastname@example.org with your polite and professional comments to help our canna-family along through their rules making process no later than 11-11-15! In the subject, please put "Comments on Draft Articles 1-9." If you would like to read the rules prior to commenting, they may be found here: https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/abc/marijuanaregulations.aspx