Senate Passes Pot Bill, Without Concentrate Ban

When Alaskans voted to regulate marijuana, a discrepancy was created where possession of small amounts of the drug was legal and where possession of larger amounts meant higher level felonies. The Alaska Senate has passed a bill to bridge the gap. And in the process, they rejected a controversial effort to preemptively ban marijuana concentrates. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, presented his amendment using images of marijuana candies and buildings consumed in fiery infernos.

“What drug is smoked in a glass apparatus using a propane torch to heat metal elements so the drug can be instantly vaporized allowing large quantities to be inhaled in a single hit? What drug is highly manufactured using volatile flammables and occasionally explodes in neighborhood labs?” asked Kelly, rhetorically.

Kelly likened the making of marijuana concentrates like butane hash oil to the manufacture of meth, and said that children would die if his amendment did not pass. While Kelly would have liked to have banned concentrates immediately, his measure was written to go into effect in two years — which is the soonest that legislators can fundamentally alter a ballot initiative, according to the state Constitution.

He argued that people were voting for legalization of the “leafy stuff,” not the sale of pot brownies, candies, and other forms of concentrates.

“If people knew what concentrates are, they would never ever vote for that,” said Kelly. “I’m convinced of that.”

Many members of the Senate disagreed. Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, pointed out that with 53 percent of the vote, the marijuana initiative was more successful than any single candidate for statewide office. She argued that the debate over whether concentrates should be allowed was a key issue of the campaign.

“What I believe is that the people, in the plain language that was presented to them, saw a definition that included the word ‘concentrate,’ saw a definition that included the word ‘compound,'” said McGuire. “There were 40 hearings across the state. There were eight of them held by the lieutenant governor alone just on this particular subject. And in almost every one of those hearings, it devolved into a debate over concentrates.”

Kelly’s amendment ultimately failed 14 to 6. The vote was an unusual one, with many Republicans voting against their colleague’s proposal.

An amendment that would have de-listed marijuana as a controlled substance also received considerable debate before ultimately failing. Supporters of the measure argued that because alcohol is not a controlled substance under Alaska law, marijuana should not be treated as one either, according to the initiative.

The marijuana crime bill, when considered in full, passed 17 to 3, with a bloc of Anchorage Democrats opposing it over the controlled substance language. It will now be considered by the House.