Since the passage of Prop 215 in 1996, many have assumed that Amsterdam style coffee shops and marijuana cafes would spring pop up all over. While California’s historic law was the first to officially permit the legal use of cannabis, it did not usher in uncontrolled access.
Twenty years after California’s milestone law, legal public consumption is still not prevalent. However, during that time, the public’s acceptance of cannabis has grown tremendously. Washington D.C. was close to allowing marijuana cafes, but that was sidelined by the City Council despite the wishes of residents.
At over 4000 miles away, Alaskan lawmakers may not be able to hear the Congress or the D.C. Council. There has been an ongoing discussion about opening marijuana cafes in Alaska since Ballot 2 was passed by state residents in November of 2014. One area of concern is related to tourist consumption. They can purchase the marijuana legally, but do not have a legal place to consume.
Currently, Alaska is the only state that has developed any framework for legal marijuana cafes. A draft of the proposed law that would permit the cafes is heading to the public comment stage.
If enacted, dispensaries would have to apply for and acquire a separate license in order to open a public consumption area. Payment of a $1000 fee would also be required. The designated area would have to be part of the same site as the dispensary. Shop owners would have the option of operating the café area either indoors or outdoors, but would have to be separated with its own door, ventilation, and serving area. Strict limits would be placed on sale amounts in order to avoid over consumption. One gram of flower, 10mg of edible products, and .25mg of concentrates would be available for consumers to purchase. Customers would be required to be at least 21 years old.
The law is far from passed and will likely involve considerable dialogue between residents, lawmakers, and the business community. According to Alaska Dispatch News, Marijuana Control Board chair, Bruce Schulte, said the board should move forward with a “suitable degree of caution,” and felt the cafes would create the most stress on local officials than any other part of the recreational cannabis system.