Alaska Senate Delays Vote On Pot Legislation

The Alaska Senate has delayed a vote on its signature marijuana bill after saying they need more time to consider an amendment that would largely ban concentrates.

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Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, said a “drafting issue” with his amendment caused the hold-up. The measure gives marijuana concentrates – like hash oil and edibles – the felony treatment, but includes an exception for concentrates meant for medicinal use. Because the Constitution bans the Legislature from tampering with ballot initiatives for two years after they go into effect, the ban on concentrates would not start until 2017.

Kelly says he’s offering the amendment now to send a message to the nascent marijuana industry.

“To have them spend money on display cases and processing and all that stuff – inventory, only to have it be illegal two years from now,” Kelly said. “This way it says, before you even start investing, this particular part of your business is going to be illegal. I just didn’t think it was far to the people who might be investing.”

This is Kelly’s second attempt to ban concentrates through the marijuana bill. The measure was briefly adopted during the committee process, but was removed after an outcry that it went against the spirit of the initiative.

Bruce Schulte is with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, and he lobbies on behalf of the marijuana industry. He describes the amendment as a “preemptive repeal” of the ballot measure.

“I would liken it to a legislative timebomb. They’re going to set this bomb in statute, and they’re going to light a two-year fuse on it,” Schulte said. “And they’re trying to guarantee that a legitimate marijuana industry will not develop. It cannot because nobody is going to go into business when they know that their entire business model is going to crumble on February 24, 2017.”

The amendment, and the full marijuana bill, is scheduled for a vote on Monday.