Alaska’s On-Site Consumption is on the Horizon

woman lighting a large joint

When uniformed people talk about marijuana legalization, it’s sometimes accompanied with a layer of fear. "Will my kids be exposed to it?" they ask. "I don't want to walk through clouds of smoke," they say. "Our state will smell like a skunk," they remark.

Contrary to popular belief, cannabis consumption comes with a series of rules, regardless of the state. It isn't a free for all, especially when it comes to the logistics of lighting up.

There are designated places where you can and cannot consume cannabis. This is true across state lines, no matter the legal status. So far, there have been strict laws pertaining to consumption-you can smoke in the privacy of your home, and few other places. In public? No way.

Alaska is adding an asterisk to these laws, and becoming the very first state to allow on-site cannabis consumption.

New Times Ahead

anchorage alaska skyline and mountains

In December 2018, legislators in Alaska approved new rules that broaden the scope of cannabis consumption. These new regulations will likely allow consumers to smoke and otherwise consume marijuana on-site at state-endorsed dispensaries. This could mean patrons lighting up on patios, rooftops, or in the smoke shop.

The rules are part of Alaska's Marijuana Control Board, and outline the Alaska marijuana consumption on site. Soon, consumers will be able to purchase up to one gram of flower or edibles from a licensed cannabis dispensary, and use it in a separate indoor or outdoor space.

The dispensaries will need to initially apply for an "onsite consumption endorsement," according to USA Today. And once the pot shop is okay to have consumers light up on-site, their pre-approved areas will need to meet specific standards.

History in the Making

man lighting a bong

Alaska is the very first state to take these first, initial steps toward the on-site consumption of marijuana. If successful, it could act as the framework for other states moving forward, as a model to base future legislation off of.

However, it's important to note that local governments will have the power to say no to these measures. Similar to how some counties in Colorado still don't have recreational marijuana shops, they can have the same power when it comes to on-site consumption. Local governments can create restrictive ballot measures, ordinances, or prevent endorsements if they do not support this movement.

Also keep in mind that like any laws in the cannabis industry, implementation takes time. The same goes for Alaska marijuana consumption on site. Even with the approved new rules, Alaska's Department of Law will still need to review and revise before they are able to be signed into law. From there, dispensaries will be able to submit their applications to the Marijuana Control Board. Once received, their evaluation process will begin.

The Logistics

photo of cannabis flower in a scooper, in a container, and laying out on the rustic table

In order to qualify for the Alaska consumption on-site status, Alaskan dispensaries have to be in a stand-alone building, and will require an entirely separate room for consumers interested in doing the deed. It has to be different from the main part of the shop where the cannabis is sold – clearly sectioned off.

Consumers will need to buy their products from that specific store to be able to participate in on-site consumption. They will not be able to bring their own products to the store to smoke, and will be turned away if they try.

Additionally, approved pot shops will also need a smoke-free part of the store where their employees can monitor and keep an eye on the consumption area. This means that the on-site consumption room will have an advanced ventilation system that clears the smoke enough for the employees to see clearly and keep visibility high, as well as keep the odors under control.

With the separate space, other dispensary visitors who are not interested in consuming on-site can still shop, without being impacted by those who do. This addresses a main concern, and ensures that all consumers are comfortable and don't have to come into contact with anything they don't directly want to see, smell, or experience.

As far as the outdoor portion of the Alaska marijuana on-site consumption areas, approval will be based on neighbors. Businesses can request patio or rooftop consumption, but whether or not their proposal is approved will come down to how it will affect their neighboring buildings and property owners. Their licenses will also have a direct plan in place detailing how the dispensary will keep things only available to of-age (21 and older) consumers.

Rules of Engagement

national park in juneau alaska

Here's what it will look like for Alaska marijuana consumption on site:

First, licensed recreational dispensaries with pre-approved space will be in service for anyone over the age of 21. Cannabis consumers will enter the store, and buy their favorite products. If they don't purchase any retail products, they'll have to leave the store without getting high.

Next, if they want to smoke or otherwise consume their weed, they will enter into a separate room, or a patio or rooftop area. This is their designated on-site consumption space, where they are free to light up their flower, eat their brownie, and hang out. They'll be supervised from a different space by employees, and probably will not have to cough through clouds of smoke.

Last, they'll enjoy. Locals and tourists alike will be able to consume marijuana on site in Alaska, enjoying the perks of the first-ever state to do so.