Potheads in Alaska can now use marijuana in legal peace. Weed officially went legal in the 49th state in February.
Alaska is now one of three states where weed is legal for recreational use. The others are Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized cannabis in 2013.
It is now legal in Alaska to possess, carry, and use up to an ounce of pot and to grow up to six flowering plants at home. Voters approved legalization in November, as did voters in Oregon.
Washington, D.C., also passed legalization last fall, but Congress has blocked key portions of that policy from taking effect for at least another year. District residents may possess weed without threat of penalties, but marijuana sales remain illegal.
Alaska already has an MMJ program
Pot was already decriminalized in Alaska, which also has a medical marijuana program. The state Legislature tried to ban it several times, but court orders allowed residents to possess up to four ounces at home without facing criminal penalties. Presumably civil fines will still apply to possession of more than an ounce.
Stores won’t open in Alaska until next year, giving the state several months to draft rules and oversee the creation of a viable legal industry. In the meantime, dealers are at risk of arrest, but customers are not.
Home growers are also safe from legal consequences as long as they stay within the six-plant limit. Aside from that rule, locals shouldn’t notice any real difference in the marijuana-buying experience until 2016.
Weed not available until 2016
“You can still give people marijuana, but you can’t buy it, or even barter for it,” said Alexandra Gutierrez of Alaska Public Media. “So it’s a pretty legally awkward spot. That probably won’t stop people from acquiring it, though.”
Adults over 21 will also be allowed to exchange small amounts of cannabis as gifts, as long as nothing else of value changes hands, including money.
Marijuana reform was always a natural in Alaska. The state has a passionate libertarian streak, and its motto could easily be “live and let live.” Alaskans aren’t keen on the idea of state interference in their personal choices.
Some details are still up in the air, such as the exact amount of weed adults will be able to possess under the law. There are also no specific rules yet about the forms of cannabis they will be allowed to use.
Gov. Bill Walker created a marijuana control board in February, an agency that will oversee legal pot and issue business licenses. The board will share its staff with the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, despite weed activists’ request for separate agencies to oversee marijuana and booze.
Walker also budgeted $1.5 million for regulation over the next year. The first licenses should be issued by next summer, state officials said.