Marijuana OK’d At State’s First Pot Convention, But Only For Display

Anchorage has cleared the way for Alaska’s first large-scale marijuana convention this weekend. But not without a few strings attached. While the city’s Assembly voted to allow marijuana on site, it cannot be consumed there.

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The vote to allow vendors to display marijuana at this weekend’s NW Cannabis Classic expo in the Dena’ina Center passed unanimously.

Organizers told the Assembly that having actual plants and product on-hand is important for educating attendees.

“We’ve got trimming and manicuring workshops,” said Corey Wray of Pacific Sun West, the promotion company promoting the event. “It’s hard to sit there and trim and manicure a bud with no bud. You’re effectively cutting space.”

Wray said the plants are also to help patrons learn about clones, demonstrate how to properly harvest, and use tertiary products like fertilizer.

It’s the biggest event for the burgeoning marijuana industry held in a public building, and raised new questions and concerns for the Municipality. Wray and his business partner testified to the Assembly they have bought an insurance policy that can cover multiple layers of liability, since it was unclear until Tuesday night’s decision what degree marijuana would be present–if at all.

Assembly Member Patrick Flynn pushed for a designated smoking area on the building’s patio.

“It’s a little naive,” Flynn said, “that we can’t provide any venue whatsoever for consumption. And I’m trying to create a very narrowly crafted, personal use facility on the grounds that is private, out of sight of minors, and therefore appropriate.”

But the rest of the Assembly didn’t agree. In part because of concerns raised that vague statutes on consumption could open the city up to legal liability if something goes wrong, as has happened with a pending case involving the Dena’ina Center.

“I would remind the body that a gentleman fell to his death from the escalator,” said Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler, “and one of the allegations is that he was over-served, i.e. he over consumed.” Wheeler’s opinion is that it is still too early in the state and municipality’s process of developing rules regulating marijuana for the city to take on the risk.

A similar event scheduled for April in the Egan Center was canceled after the Mayor’s Office banned displays of marijuana in buildings owned by the city.

The NW Cannabis Classic is slated to bring more than $100,000 into Anchorage during the three day convention. according to Wray.