Almost a year after Alaska decided to allow licensed cannabis retailers to open on-site public consumption areas, marijuana regulators have finally approved the state’s first two weed lounges.
Last week, the state Marijuana Control Board voted 3-2 to allow two licensed state weed retailers, Cannabis Corner and GoodSinse, to offer customers a place to sample their wares. Cannabis Corner, in Ketchikan, is aiming to open its consumption area as soon as next month, and is planning a living-room vibe with couches, a fireplace, and bar tables with stools. "We don't want people to feel like they're going into a dive at all," said Ayme Zantua, Cannabis Corner co-owner, to Anchorage Daily News.
GoodSinse, located in Fairbanks, is planning to model their lounge on a brewery tasting room, with large couches and a massive TV for watching football. The owners are also planning a “show grow,” which will allow customers to see a part of the cultivation operation that also occurs on the same premises. GoodSinse is aiming to open their new lounge this summer, or earlier if possible. Both establishments plan to allow customers to smoke weed or eat edibles in these new areas.
Alaska's approval of on-site pot lounges has been moving at a glacial pace, especially compared to Illinois, where the first legal weed lounge was approved just weeks after adult-use sales began. The cannabis industry has been pushing for legal public consumption areas ever since the state officially legalized adult-use sales in 2014. Advocates for these spaces noted that a lack of public consumption zones could discourage weed tourism, as state law (and hotels) prohibits public use. On the most basic level, though, why have commercial cannabis regulations if there are no legal places to consume said herb? It makes no sense.
Last spring, the state finally legalized social pot consumption at licensed dispensaries. The law requires that each consumption area be physically separate from the rest of the store, but employees must be able to monitor customers from a smoke-free location. These on-site lounges can be outdoors, but can also be setup indoors, as long as the owners install a secure door and a separate ventilation system for the smoking lounge. Customers will only be allowed to consume weed products that they purchase on-site.
The law went into effect on April 11, 2019, but it took nearly a year for state regulators to approve the state's first two on-site lounges. Other individual cities in the US, including Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas have voted to allow public weed consumption spaces, but Alaska is the first state that will allow a pot lounge to open in any city or town, as long as it is linked to a licensed weed shop.