Alaska Regulators Propose Allowing Cannabis Cafés

If the lieutenant governor agrees, Alaska will be the first state to explicitly permit marijuana consumption outside the home.


The Bulldog

Last week the Alaska Marijuana Control Board (MCB) voted to allow cannabis consumption in state-licensed pot shops. If approved by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (whose duties include filing and publishing state regulations), the MCB's decision will make Alaska the first state with something like Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés—in fact, the first state to explicitly allow marijuana use in settings other than private residences.

Measure 2, the legalization measure that Alaska voters approved last November, says "it is unlawful to consume marijuana in public" and prescribes a $100 fine for that offense. Although the initiative does not define public, the state argued that the term covers any business open to the public, including clubs where people pay a membership fee to consume their own marijuana in a social setting. Last August the MCB proposed regulations that explicitly banned cannabis clubs, a move that drew strong objections from people who thought consumption should not be legally confined to people's homes—a situation that is especially inconvenient for visitors from other states. The board argues that Measure 2 does not authorize it to license clubs for consumption but does give it the leeway to allow consumption in retail outlets, which it plans to exclude from the definition of public.

Reformers have long argued that treating marijuana like alcohol means allowing something like taverns for cannabis. But fear and embarrassment have kept Colorado and Washington not only from allowing on-site consumption in marijuana stores but from making any provision at all for cannabis consumers who either do not have a private residence (such as tourists) or would like to use marijuana somewhere else from time to time. Activists in Denver, where Colorado's marijuana stores are concentrated, are trying to negotiate a solution with city officials, who so far have proven less tolerant than their counterparts in Colorado Springs, which allows cannabis clubs while banning recreational sales. Proposed marijuana inititiatives in California and Massachusetts would allow on-site consumption in pot stores.

NEXT: A New Model for a Police Shooting Database?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well, yeah. In many states you can’t legally consume alcohol “in public” but may do so in bars/restaurants; while those places are open to the public, they are private businesses. While there are far more laws around alcohol consumption that marijuana consumption currently (which explicitly authorize alcohol consumption in licensed bars/restaurants), it is silly that marijuana would be held to a different standard.

  2. Do any of these places ban tobacco smoking in most public places? It will be amusing watching people smuggle tobacco into a pot business.

    1. Why yes, smoking is banned in almost all “public spaces” (including restaurants, bars and patios attached to said locations) statewide. The bans were adopted on a city by city basis as “smokefree workplace” bans and the second largest and most “conservative” (Fairbanks) has, to date, opted out of bans.

      It will be luscious to see the Anchorage proggies try to justify the ability to smoke weed while maintaining the bans on tobacco.

  3. This is great and will save lives. Alaska has a big problem with homeless people overdosing on ‘spice’. (Yes they have homeless in Alaska.) And of course the ‘heroin epidemic’. Pot is a safe alternative and has been proven to reduce opiate mortality. In fact, the only people who’d oppose this are the ones who’d want to see more deaths – the addiction industry.

    1. Maybe overdosing on spice is preferable to freezing to death?

      1. I’m not sure that’s an either/or proposition.

  4. And it will be a seasonable thing, since most of the year, Alaska residents are not able to go outside of their home. So maybe it’s not quite as sinful as it would be in the lower 48. BTW, why do they call it the lower 48? Isn’t Hawaii farther south than any mainland state? So shouldn’t it be the middle 48?

    1. There’s overlap in lattitude with south texas (and therefore florida).

      1. Looking on a map, it appears that even the northern most island is farther south than any part of TX or FL. I could be wrong, but if there is any overlap, I can’t see it.

        1. I looked up the numbers (not trusting myself to undo the map projections) there’s about 6 degrees of overlap.

          Florida Latitude 24? 27′ N to 31? 00′ N
          Texas Latitude 25??50? N to 36??30? N
          Hawaii Latitude 18??55? N to 28??27? N

          So it does have the southernmost point, its northern edges cross the line marked by the southern ends of texas and florida.

          1. err… four degrees. I mistyped.

          2. That’s strange. I’ve looked at several maps of the Islands and I cannot find anywhere that shows anything north of 22 north latitude. Latitude 28 would be about 300 miles north of there I would think.

            1. Ah, I found it:

              Kure (Mokup?papa) at 28?25?N 178?20?W.

    2. most of the year, Alaska residents are not able to go outside of their home


      1. The vampires come out during their one night.

      2. Yeah I swear I was outside almost all day today.

  5. So I take it they don’t have any indoor clean air acts in Alaska which countermand these sorts of shenanigans?

  6. When I visited Alaska several years ago, everyone was already smoking weed at bars (outside, since they already had an indoor smoking ban).

    1. Look at the size of Alaska. What’s the population? Unless you are in the middle of one of the most populous cities, who the hell is going to stop you from doing whatever?

      1. And it’s been pretty weed tolerant for a long time. I saw more than one business by the side of the highway with a little weed plant growing out front for decoration.

        They are pretty hard on drunk driving, though. And the tobacco buying age is 19, which I thought was weird.

      2. We do actually have laws here. And bosses, and in-laws, etc. You might sometimes see fairly open use in certain dives in bigger towns/cities, or at private gatherings (at least compared with some other places) but it’s not like you’re going to walk down the street smoking a joint.

    2. When I visited Alaska several years ago, everyone was already smoking weed at bars (outside, since they already had an indoor smoking ban).

      So I guess that answers my question.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.