The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office has begun taking public comments on a proposal that could allow Amsterdam-style marijuana cafés in Alaska.
In a public notice filed Thursday, AMCO said it will take written comments through Nov. 1 on the idea. A public hearing will take place Dec. 19, and the Marijuana Control Board could vote in a public meeting on that date to accept the proposal, send it back for more revisions, or reject it entirely.
The public notice comes one week after the board voted in a Fairbanks meeting to advance the idea, which is formally known as “on-site consumption.”
Jed Smith, regulations specialist for AMCO, said by phone that if the regulations are accepted, existing retail marijuana license stores would be allowed to apply for a special “license endorsement.”
“You have to have a retail marijuana license, and then you would apply for an endorsement on top of that,” he said.
The café space would be limited to a portion of the store, and the retailer would have to specifically isolate that portion with a special ventilation system, walls and a secure door. Outdoor consumption could be allowed under some circumstances.
On-site smoking would be prohibited in localities like Juneau, which has an ordinance banning public indoor smoking of all kinds. Edible and drinkable marijuana products could still be consumed within the store in those kinds of locations.
The marijuana control board has been considering the topic for almost two years. In April, the board considered a draft proposal but the Alaska Department of Law and AMCO raised concerns about the idea.
The draft was withdrawn for further revisions, and because the board had trouble filling its public safety seat, it declined to consider the idea until that seat was permanently occupied.
Demand for the on-site consumption idea is being driven by tourist-heavy areas, such as Juneau. Under state law, it is illegal to consume marijuana “in public,” a term defined by state regulation. That generally confines smokers to their own homes.
Tourists don’t have that option, meaning Alaska’s 2014 ballot measure legalizing marijuana left them with no legal place to consume it.
Juneau’s Green Elephant Gardens marijuana store is located blocks from cruise ship docks in the Rock Dump district, and co-owner Jennifer Canfield outlined plans for an on-site consumption area when she applied for her retail license.
“I think it’d be great if the tourists had somewhere to go to smoke their joints other than on the beaches or on the trails,” she said.
She said she doesn’t think the addition of an on-site consumption space would affect her business; it’s more likely to keep marijuana away from people who don’t want to deal with it.
“I think it’s more in the public’s interest,” she said.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.