On-site cannabis use: What stands in the way

Published: Jul. 25, 2017 at 4:14 PM AKDT
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Eating or smoking cannabis products inside licensed retail shops could soon become a reality, in Alaska.

The state's marijuana control board approved a proposal outlining some guidelines for on-site consumption, at a meeting in Fairbanks, earlier this month.

The board is looking for suggestions on how on-site consumption should work.

Inside marijuana retail stores, like Alaska Fireweed, customers, like Camilo Giraldo who is visiting Alaska from Colombia, can buy cannabis products, but can't use them.

"There should be (on-site consumption)," said Giraldo. "I mean, there's places where people can smoke. There's places where people can drink."

Erika McConnell, director for the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said the marijuana control board is working out a system for gathering public comment on the on-site consumption proposal.

"It's an issue in every state that has legalized marijuana struggles, because there's a lot of desire to have an area where people can consume together," said McConnell. "No state has actually allowed this, yet."

Despite concerns raised by community members about smoking, Alaska Fireweed's General Manager, Will Ingram, said there's a way to solve the problem.

"I know there's a lot of concern about how you can mitigate the smoke, employees getting second-hand smoke and getting high while on the job," Ingram said. "Those are kind of the negatives I see to it, but there are solutions to those problems. They're very clear solutions. There's a lot of technology in place to have a very clean environment to have a smoke lounge."

McConnell said the proposal looks at addressing the issue of smoking bans.

"The board wanted to be sure that those municipalities had the opportunity to have that ban also cover on site consumption areas, if they chose so that the allowance for on site consumption wouldn't override any sort of local smoking ban," McConnell said.

The Alaska Division of Public Health said it does not support on-site consumption in the state because of the potential health risks to users and non-users.

The division also said the original language on Ballot Measure 2 did not allow on-site consumption and included a $100 fine for breaking the regulation.

The marijuana control board's proposal will soon be available online in the next two weeks where people can provide comments for 60 days.