Alaska to Become the First State With Legal Cannabis Cafés

Alaska is poised to become the first U.S. state to allow cannabis consumption in businesses open to the public. The Alaska Marijuana Board has been hard at work drafting regulations, and cafes could become part of Alaska's cannabis culture as soon as this summer.

Clubs for medical patients in Alaska have existed in a legal gray area for some time and began springing up after the state legalized medical marijuana in 1998. The medical rules were ambiguous, and combined with a lack of regulatory oversight allowed social clubs with onsite consumption to fly under the radar. They operate in a sort of loophole: Patients in Alaska are allowed to grow cannabis and consume it in private, which proponents say allows for clubs open only to members, not the public.



As momentum spreads for national marijuana legalization in 2016, access to cannabis is becoming more and more convenient. One state where weed is legal for recreational use may be allowing a convenience never seen before in the United States.


Fairbanks marijuana club treading carefully forward

Fairbanks first marijuana business has been open for just over a month. “The Higher Calling” – or THC – is one of several so-called “clubs” in the state that have arisen since voter’s passage of a marijuana legalization initiative in 2014.

Clubs like Fairbanks’ “The Higher Calling” do not sell marijuana. The Higher Calling’s co-owner Megan Mooers describes her downtown area business as a private club for cannabis enthusiasts.

“Membership allows you use of the building to bring your own cannabis products to use or smoke,” Mooers said.

Mooers says the club, which offers coffee, snacks and a game room, signed up 130 paying members in its first month of operation.


Hemp lip balm causes furor at Alaska military base — 400 tubes tossed


ACHORAGE, Alaska — Officials say they had to discard hundreds of tubes of lip balm that were distributed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richards after they were found to have hemp seed oil as an ingredient, which contains trace amounts of THC.

The base’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office had been distributing the lip balm as it typically does with other promotional items, like water bottles and calendars, The Alaska Dispatch News reported. JBER spokesman 1st Lt. Michael Harrington said the lip balm was purchased mistakenly.

“Not everybody thinks to check the ingredients list on ChapStick,” said Harrington.

The lip balm contained hemp seed oil, which is banned under U.S. Army and Air Force regulations.


Lip balm with THC mistakenly distributed on JBER

Around 400 tubes of lip balm were being discarded on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Thursday after officials found they contained trace amounts of THC.

Confirming an initial report from the Air Force Times, JBER spokesperson 1st Lt. Michael Harrington said Thursday, “It’s a real thing; kind of embarrassing, I guess.”

The lip balm contained hemp seed oil, the use of which is banned in U.S. Army and Air Force regulations.

In an email to JBER employees Wednesday, the base's public affairs team asked that the lip balm be thrown away.


Alaska Marijuana Task Force postpones regulation decision

Comments and discussion stretched late into the night at the borough’s first Marijuana Task Force meeting after the statewide marijuana regulations came out.

The task force received comments for hours from members of the public, all urging them to stay as close to the state regulations as possible to foster a growing industry. After deliberation, the task force postponed a decision about any local regulations until its meeting after the new year.

Task force member Dollynda Phelps proposed to postpone the discussion of permits and limitations proposed by Amy Fenske, who recently resigned from the task force. Phelps introduced a motion to do nothing additional in the borough and simply stick to the state regulations.


Investing in Cannabis 2016: Legalization and FDA Approvals to Revolutionize the Market

The cannabis market has come a long way in recent years, and 2015 was no exception. While marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the US has allowed patients with a variety of medical conditions to smoke marijuana in 23 states since 1996, and this year more states have moved to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis.

For example, in February, Alaska became the third state to allow individuals to grow, smoke and possess cannabis for recreational use, while Oregon became the fourth in July. There have also been initiatives in the medical cannabis space, with both Texas and Georgia signing bills last year to legalize low-THC cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy and other chronic diseases.


Decide on a marijuana tax: Rolling back on residency requirements for local pot businesses

News-Miner opinion: Other Alaska communities have either approved or are making good headway on taxing marijuana products in preparation for the anticipated legal sales of pot next year.

It’s time for the Fairbanks North Star Borough to get on with it now, also.

The Borough Assembly last took up the issue in August, with its members split over whether to ask voters to authorize a 5 percent tax or an 8 percent tax. The idea was to get something on the October ballot so that Fairbanks could be ready when pot businesses start opening in the borough.

Two assembly members were absent from that August meeting, and it also was suggested that maybe it would be better to wait until a new assembly was seated after the October election.


Alaska Marijuana committee iffy about excise taxes

Sitka’s marijuana advisory committee doesn’t want to impose excise taxes on the now-legal drug – at least, not right now. While no firm recommendations were made at a meeting earlier this week, several members spoke in support of leaving taxes off the table. 

The Committee is mulling over an excise tax on marijuana and related-products, like edibles. Excise taxes are fees levied on the process of getting the product to the store counter, generally paid to a city or municipality by a wholesaler.


MCB cancels vote to allow out of state funding for marijuana businesses


As marijuana regulations begin to take shape, many entrepreneurs were hoping to see changes that would allow out of state investors to buy into their businesses. But a Tuesday meeting of the Marijuana Control Board stopped short of voting on the issue due to a procedural technicality.

Under the current proposed regulations, marijuana businesses are not allowed to receive any funding from out of state investors. A recent amendment proposed by MCB member Brandon Emmett would allow for a 12.5 percent outside investment.

The board was scheduled to vote on the amendment Tuesday. However, according to the Department of Law, there wasn't proper public notice to address the issue at the meeting and so no vote could be taken.


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