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Alaska Is On Track to Become First State with Legal Cannabis Lounges

This week, the state Marijuana Control Board unveiled a new proposal that would allow pot shops in Alaska to create a separate area for patrons to sample their weed wares.

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The Alaskan cannabis industry has been growing steadily ever since voters legalized recreational weed in 2014, despite the fact that the state currently has the most expensive pot in the country. State cannabis regulators may soon be sweetening the deal for Last Frontier tokers, though, with a new proposal allowing licensed dispensaries to create on-site cannabis lounges where customers can legally smoke up in public.

This week, the state Marijuana Control Board (MCB) unveiled a new proposal that would allow pot shops to create a separate area for patrons to sample their wares. Sales of cannabis to on-site consumers would be limited to “marijuana bud or flower in quantities not to exceed one gram to any one person per day” and “edible marijuana products in quantities not to exceed 10 mg of THC to any one person per day,” Marijuana Moment reports. Cannabis concentrates and tobacco would not be allowed in these onsite lounges, nor would patrons be allowed to bring their own weed.

The MCB rejected a similar proposal in February 2017 over fears that store staff and customers would be exposed to secondhand pot smoke. Last summer, regulators went back to the drawing board and began to draft a new proposal to address these concerns. The new proposal would require dispensaries to create either a ventilated indoor lounge separate from the main retail space, or a fenced-in outdoor area, to serve as a discrete public consumption space. Stores will also be required to create “a smoke-free area for employees to monitor the marijuana consumption area.”

Advocates of onsite consumption argue that these lounges will give tourists a safe and legal place to get high. These lounges can benefit residents of the state, as well, especially considering the fact that landlords and senior housing complexes are still allowed to evict tenants who consume marijuana indoors. If the proposal passes, local governments will continue to have the right to ban onsite consumption entirely, and will also be allowed to protest individual stores’ permits.

Several other states have attempted to create venues for cannabis social clubs, with little success. In 2016, Denver voters approved Initiative 300, a local bill allowing cannabis consumption at licensed venues, including coffee shops, bars, and yoga studios. The city imposed extreme restrictions on the licensing for these public consumption spots, and as of this February, only two businesses have bothered to apply. The Nevada state Senate passed a bill to allow public pot lounges last year, but the bill failed to pass the Assembly.

The Alaska MCB are welcoming public commentary on their new proposal until November 1st, and will hold a public hearing on the matter on December 19th. After, the board “will either adopt the proposed regulation changes or other provisions dealing with the same subject, without further notice, or decide to take no action,” according to Marijuana Moment.