Pot initiative backer cites concern with Alaska smoking bill

JUNEAU — Public smoking restrictions that recently passed the Alaska Senate could hurt proposed cannabis cafes in the state, a sponsor of the initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in Alaska said Friday.

In a release, Tim Hinterberger said the bill would undermine the current regulatory system.

Late last year, the Marijuana Control Board approved regulations that would allow for onsite consumption of marijuana at authorized retail pot shops. The specific rules surrounding that have yet to be decided. No retail shops have been licensed yet.

The board first began accepting applications for marijuana establishments in February and plans to issue licenses for testing and cultivation facilities first.

The bill, SB 1, takes aim at secondhand smoke and seeks to provide a statewide smoke-free workplace law for businesses and public places, according to a sponsor statement from Sen. Peter Micciche, who introduced the bill in January 2015. He said he took on the issue to “protect the rights of the non-smoker, save lives and reduce the staggering health costs of secondhand exposure to tobacco use.”

An email seeking comment on the issue raised by Hinterberger was sent to Micciche, who was tied up with committee meetings Friday afternoon.

Cynthia Franklin, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said the bill would have an impact on onsite consumption if retail marijuana stores are not exempted. While marijuana can be consumed in other ways, without an exemption, smoking would be prohibited, she said. The definition of smoking in the bill includes the use of tobacco or “plant product” intended for inhalation.

Franklin said a similar bill in the House provides for an exemption for retail marijuana stores in the same way that retail tobacco stores would be exempted. The exemptions would apply to such establishments in free-standing buildings.

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