The Last Frontier: Alaska Pioneers First Public Cannabis Consumption Rules

For the first time ever, cannabis consumption will be allowed on site in designated areas at certain adult use storefronts in Alaska. Nowhere else in the United States is public consumption legal at this time.

It’s a far cry from the cannabis cafes of Amsterdam, but an important milestone in the regulatory battle for responsible cannabis users. Permitted areas must be outdoors, on the premises of the facility where the cannabis was purchased, and serve only individuals aged 21 and up.

Read the full AP announcement here.

After a voters’ initiative campaign fizzled out on impact earlier this year in Denver in favor of a more collaborative approach with city officials, the cannabis community has been waiting to see when and how limited social use is implemented in the legal market. Alaskans are still waiting for the Department of Law to review the regulations, and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s signature to make the new rules official.

Eli Bilton is CEO of the Attis Group, an Oregon-based cannabis cultivator, processor, and dispensary owner. The Attis Group currently accounts for 10% of Oregon’s total cannabis output, and is looking to expand to Alaska within the next year. Bilton is confident that the new regulations will go into effect without a hitch, encouraging a new kind of cannabis culture (and business environment) in Alaska.

“Cannabis consumption will likely be looked to as a social activity more in Alaska than in other states, and the state’s pre-existing stigma associated with use of the substance will degrade at a higher-than-average rate for legal areas,” says Bilton. “Furthermore, this regulatory change could lead to more growth opportunities for businesses, such as ‘taste testing’ and in-store events involving cannabis consumption.”

“It’s also worth noting that, if carried out well, these regulations could increase Alaska’s value as a tourism destination. Consumption law may well lead Alaska serving as an incubator for small businesses, bed & breakfasts, boutique hotels  and coffee shops.” -Eli Bilton, CEO of The Attis Group

Though the Marijuana Control Board vote was nearly hung at 3-2, now that it’s been decided, implementation of the new policy should go smoothly. Applications for storefront licenses in Alaska will be accepted starting in February 2016, with the first licenses issued in May.

“While it’s unlikely that regulatory bodies concerned with the state’s marijuana program will interfere with the new rules, there’s a possibility that these regulations won’t remain in play forever,” said Bilton. “It’s sufficiently low, however, that business owners and participants in the state’s industry should feel comfortable adhering their business models to the state’s new regulations.”

It’s certainly an exciting time – cannabis consumers can now expect to be accepted in certain public settings within the next few years, further de-stigmatizing the plant and the industry as a whole. Which state will be next to regulate public consumption?

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