‘It’s an oversight’: marijuana businesses unable to do curbside pick up

State Marijuana Control Board to have special meeting to revisit emergency regulation
A sign on the drive-thru window of K Beach Reef in Soldotna. Owner Ryan Hall says he built the...
A sign on the drive-thru window of K Beach Reef in Soldotna. Owner Ryan Hall says he built the window frame and dug out a drive-thru just to keep customers and staff safe in the beginning of the pandemic.(Ryan Hall)
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 7:46 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Seems like you can pick up anything at the curb at this point in the pandemic. However, for the time being, those who grew accustomed to it are not able to pick up pot via curbside or drive-thru after the emergency regulation authorizing it expired on Nov. 15.

It’s got people like Ryan Hall, owner of K Beach Reef frustrated. When curbside was initially allowed through an emergency regulation, he spent time, effort, and money building a drive-thru window on his business. He said it was well-received as a safety precaution especially by his older customers.

“Anyone who’s used to running through the drive-thru is coming in and saying, ‘What are we doing here?’” he said on their reaction to not being able to use the window. “People deserve to be able to protect themselves.”

What’s even more puzzling to Hall and others like him, is some rules for pot shops that did get extended like the fact that people in Alaska can use an expired driver’s license to purchase marijuana.

“Now, how are we going to say that you can shop with an expired ID and that is going to be an acceptable term, but ordering marijuana over the phone and picking it up through a drive-thru window is not acceptable?” Hall said.

At the State Marijuana Control Board Office, Chair Loren Jones said he’s heard about the backlash of the expired emergency regulation. He explained that it was a combination of factors that led to curbside service regulations expiring even while Alaska sees its highest case counts during the pandemic.

The first was the timing of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office issuing a new emergency mandate. Jones said they were waiting to see if that was going to happen and it came down last minute. That, and he said there was some confusion on how they could use emergency regulations in these unprecedented times.

When the mandate did come down, Jones said the director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office called to tell him the Alcohol Control Board set up a meeting for Nov. 17 and asked if Jones wanted to hold a meeting for the Marijuana Control Board.

“I said no, originally, because the mandate was only for 30 days,” Jones said, “and I was under the impression that you could not issue a second emergency order that was identical to the first one. That sort of defeats the purpose of an emergency if you can continue to redo those. Subsequently, I was told by the Department of Law that that’s not the case.”

Now, Jones said they will be calling a special meeting on Monday to revisit an emergency regulation for curbside as well as figure out if they want to make it a permanent regulation. Meanwhile, the Alcohol Control Board already issued a new emergency regulation allowing for the curbside pick up of alcohol that’s already in effect.

As for the expired ID use extension, Jones explained that is a state advisory from the governor’s office, which has different rules and usage than the emergency regulation that allowed for curbside.

“Because of the governor’s extending or putting in a new mandate, and he suspended the regulations and rules, then we, the office, put out the advisory notices that those that were above us, those that were advisory, we could extend those. But since our others were regulatory, they couldn’t do that.”

Jones said the board can regulate curbside, but since the ID advisory comes from the state, it’s not the board’s call. Jones said the idea there is that you’re supposed to avoid standing in line near other people at the DMV during the pandemic, so if your license happens to expire, it’s okay.

Jones said it’s likely that they’ll figure out a new regulation Monday that could go into effect soon after. Even though there will probably be cars going through his drive-thru again soon, Hall said this situation is highlighting the challenges that marijuana businesses have that others don’t.

“If we’re going to extend a state emergency declaration across all businesses in the state, how are we not able to extend those same rules and regulations to the marijuana industry?” he said.

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