Alaska may be America’s last frontier, but when it comes to cannabis regulations, the 49th state is breaking new ground. On Wednesday, Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer signed off on a plan to legalize social cannabis consumption at licensed dispensaries across the state — the first such regulation in America’s growing legal weed landscape.
According to the Juneau Empire, the new social use regulations will allow dispensaries to seek out an additional license to turn an adjacent space into a cannabis lounge, where locals and tourists alike can light up their newly purchased pot as soon as the transaction is complete.
The new social consumption rules will go into effect across Alaska on April 11th, but don’t book your 4/20 trip to the frozen tundra quite yet, as industry experts predict a significant licensing window that could delay the process until this summer at the earliest.
“When these rules go into effect, Alaska will be the first state to finalize and approve statewide rules for on-site consumption. We expect more to follow suit in the not too distant future,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a press release. “Allowing social consumption is sensible from a business perspective, particularly for states with large amounts of tourists who otherwise have no place to legally consume, but it also has an important social justice component.”
In the lower 48, only a couple states have approved any sort of social consumption regulations. Denver voters passed Initiative 300 in 2016 to allow stand-alone vape and edible lounges, with an edible-friendly coffee shop and vape arcade now open. Outside of the Mile High City, though, Colorado smokers are still restricted to smoke in private. In California, local municipalities also have control over cannabis lounges, with San Francisco’s dispensary smoke zones acting as the only Golden State social consumption hotspot of note, while West Hollywood is currently working to secure a similar reputation in SoCal.
Like other Alaska dispensary licenses, the on-site consumption permit will fall under the purview of the state’s Marijuana Control Board, with each pot shop required to supply a security plan, ventilation standards, and a secure wall, door, or outdoor patio separating the retail space from the proposed consumption lounge.
“This is something that’s not happening anywhere else in the U.S. yet,” Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, told the Associated Press. “As we start to develop this, people are really looking at us, so I know that everybody wants to get it right.”
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