Walker signs alcohol, marijuana reform bill

Underage kids who drink alcohol will face a violation, not a full-fledged crime, under a new bill signed into law in a ceremony at the Rasmuson Foundation headquarters in Anchorage.

Gov. Bill Walker signed Senate Bill 165 into law on Wednesday afternoon, according to an email from spokeswoman Katie Marquette.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, incorporates changes to the state’s alcohol regulations that were first suggested by a reform committee that has spent more than 8,000 hours on the topic since 2012. While the bulk of the proposed reforms did not make it onto the Legislative calendar this year, Micciche pushed a pared-down bill that contained a few core provisions.

Before the bill, juveniles caught with alcohol faced misdemeanor charges and the loss of their driver’s license, even if the incident didn’t involve driving.

Studies indicated that having a misdemeanor record and losing a driver’s license led to worse rehabilitation options.

Now, minors in possession of alcohol will simply be fined $500, an amount that can be reduced to $50 if they complete an alcohol education course within six months of sentencing.

The bill also includes a provision sought by the Marijuana Control Board that allows national criminal background checks from the FBI for businessmen and women opening marijuana businesses in Alaska.

Those background checks were considered crucial for the state’s new legal marijuana industry to abide by federal standards.

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