Earlier this month, Alaska became the first state to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana use in retail cannabis shops.

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer signed the new regulations into law on 12 March, 2019, following the approval of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board in December.

Starting April 11, when the law takes effect, licensed marijuana retailers will be able to apply for an endorsement permitting on-site consumption for their customers.

“The big news is, the suspense is over,” said Mark Springer, chair of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board.

San Francisco, Denver, and several local municipalities already allow customers to consume their marijuana purchases on-site, but this is the first time that public cannabis consumption at retail shops has been approved at state-level.

“This is something that’s not happening anywhere else in the U.S. yet,” Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said to 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. I don’t want to have to get this pulled back and revisited.”

Designated consumption areas

Under the new regulations, marijuana retailers in Alaska that receive an endorsement for on-site use will be required to create a designated area for consumption, such as a patio or outdoor lounge, separate from the retail space. There is also a purchase limit of one gram of cannabis per adult while edible marijuana products may not exceed 10mg of THC to any one person per day.

Applying for an endorsement will cost interested retailers $1,000, and a further $600 to apply for a renewal. Annually, an on-site endorsement carries a $2,000 fee.

Local municipalities can prohibit on-site consumption

The law also contains provisions allowing local governments in Alaska to opt-out of allowing on-site marijuana consumption entirely.

The purpose of the new legislation is to provide tourists and residents who are legally allowed to buy and consume cannabis a legal and safe place to do so.

Smoking marijuana in public is illegal in Alaska, as is the case in every legal marijuana states, meaning that the only available place to smoke is at home. This is often a problem though, since public housing and many apartment owners do not allow marijuana use. As such, many adults who can legally buy medical or recreational cannabis have no legal place to consume it.

“Allowing social consumption is sensible from a business perspective, particularly for states with large amounts of tourists who otherwise have no place to legally consume, but it also has a social justice component,” said Erik Altieri, the executive director of the marijuana law reform organization NORML.

“By preventing retail outlets and other venues from being licensed and regulated for social consumption, many patients will have to choose between effective cannabis treatment for their ailments or being thrown out of public housing. 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,” he added.

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