State seeks feedback on pot regs

Last November, Alaska voters legalized limited pot possession, and directed the state to start writing the regulations for a commercial industry. Now the Marijuana Control Board is looking for feedback on what it hopes is the final version of those rules.

Bruce Schulte is chair of the state’s marijuana board, which took public testimony on its proposed rules Thursday.

“We’re getting a lot of very thoughtful feedback, much of it is very focused and thankfully folks are zeroing in on particular sections or issues that they think are are particularly important, so that’s all really good feedback,” Schulte said.

The regulations cover everything from the types of businesses that will be allowed to limiting advertising near schools and other places where kids often spend time. As proposed, it would be illegal to give away or sell coffee at a marijuana store, or to light up there. Schulte said the rules will apply statewide.

“Local governments definitely have some authority to apply more stringent regulations,” Schulte said. “Our hope is that a lot of local governments will look at the statewide regs and conclude that those are sufficient, that we’ve successfully covered most of the really key issues.”

“They may look at them and say you know, all we really need to do from here is apply some zoning considerations and be done with it.”

Schulte said the board is hoping to adopt a final draft of the regulations in November.

“The deadline for completion of the regulations is Nov. 24, and we expect to hit that deadline by a couple of days,” Schulte said. “The next milestone is February 24 of 2016. That is the latest date by which the state must begin accepting license applications. At this point, there’s every expectation that some licenses will be issued by the end of May in 2016.”

The rules would spell out how voters, or a local government assembly or city council, can prohibit marijuana sales and businesses. Schulte said the board is still looking for guidance on determining what counts as a local government. Cities and boroughs would be able to prohibit sales and businesses, but it’s unclear if unincorporated communities or village councils will also have that power.

“At our July second meeting we put forth four questions for the legislature, and one of them had to do with that definition of local government as it pertains to the local options. So we haven’t really gotten clarity on that yet, and probably won’t until the next legislative session this winter,” Schulte said.

Written comments will be accepted through November 1. The City of Dillingham is also looking for people to serve on its marijuana advisory committee.