Public consumption takes a giant step in Alaska

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Leland Rucker

On Nov. 20, Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board voted to allow consumption of cannabis at licensed retail dispensaries. Alaska was the fourth state to legalize cannabis, and if signed into law, it would become the first to allow consumption outside of residential homes and private property.

The vote was close (3-2), and it needs the signature of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, but if it holds, the law would go in effect early next year. And it would really up the ante for other legal states, Colorado included, to figure out ways to provide places for people, especially tourists, to use cannabis anywhere other than their own or friends’ homes.

Earlier, the same board, which is writing regulations for the enactment of Measure 2, which legalized cannabis in Alaska, had suggested banning clubs of any kind. That drew protests from those working to allow other places for citizens and tourists to be able to consume. (Nothing like coming to a place where cannabis is legal, but there’s nowhere to use it.) So the proposed regs would allow cannabis to be used in dispensaries, subject to community approval, along with caps on THC levels in concentrates and a rule allowing outside investors to fund cannabis businesses.

Public consumption has been a tricky issue here in Colorado. Amendment 64 doesn’t explicitly disallow all public consumption, but so far, except for Colorado Springs and Nederland, private clubs have not been permitted. The only sanctioned operation in Boulder County is Club Ned in Nederland. No other state that has legalized has been able to come up with a solution, either.

Earlier this year, Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente, both authors of Amendment 64, started the Campaign for Limited Social Use. The group got more than twice the number of Denver voter signatures needed to put a question on the 2015 ballot that would have allowed social use by adults in designated areas of bars and other sanctioned businesses.

They later pulled that proposal and are working with the city to come up with a workable solution. Tvert says that talks continue and that they are committed to working with the city and the business community to adopt a reasonable law that allows adults to consume marijuana in specified places.

Let’s hope so. It’s a problem that won’t go away, and something the legislature should take up in its 2016 session.

This will be my final column in this space. I am not leaving, however. I will be taking a position as senior editor for a monthly magazine debuting in Denver/Boulder in April. Sensi will, like Weed Between the Lines, be chronicling the new normal as legalization takes hold in Colorado.

When I started this column more than two and a half years ago, I knew little about the subject and was determined to find out and report as much as I could. Cannabis has been a positive part of my life, and I began questioning the federal government’s policies beginning in the 1970s. The more I studied, the more I found out about the Drug War, the inequality in the way police and courts use marijuana possession against black Americans and other minorities and the lies that have fed this insanity for almost a century.

I am proud to live in a state where voters, by a convincing majority, support the notion that cannabis, in and of itself, isn’t really the problem, but that prohibition is. Not everyone who voted for legalization is a cannabis user, but even Coloradans who don’t used common sense instead of fear to motivate their vote. And thanks to our lawmakers, almost all of whom were against Amendment 64, for coming together to implement the law. It’s not perfect, but cannabis has now become part of the fabric of our state, and life goes on.

Special thanks to Joel Dyer, Stewart Sallo and Jeff Dodge, who gave me the autonomy to develop the column when I approached them after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Amendment 64 into law in December of 2012.

Writing Weed Between the Lines has allowed me to meet some truly amazing, visionary people. My sincere thanks to all those who have shared their successes, failures and ambitions with me. You are the heroes of this revolution, and I’m hoping this change will give me even more opportunity to concentrate on the people who are making something I thought impossible just a few years ago into a reality.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU. http://news.kgnu.org/weed