Board tables onsite consumption vote until June
A vote on draft regulations allowing onsite consumption of marijuana at retail businesses was postponed yet again Friday, when the Marijuana Control Board unanimously tabled the issue until the June meeting in Anchorage.
Board member Brandon Emmett — the author or co-author of several draft proposals regulating onsite consumption — reluctantly brought up the motion for postponement. Emmett, who has one of two industry seats on the board, and Loren Jones, the public health representative on the board, drafted the latest proposal for the meeting held in Nome April 4-6.
“As many of you know, this has been my baby for a while now. I’ve been working on this for three years,” Emmett told fellow board members. He referenced tourism as one of the major drivers of the effort to provide spaces for visitors to consume.
“I don’t think that the onsite consumption regs, even if we put them out for public comment today, I don’t think the process is going to be complete soon enough before the last cruise ship leaves,” he said. “Because it has been such a contentious issue and we have worked so hard on it, it deserves a full vote of the board.”
Although four members is a quorum, the board is missing its public safety seat member. The Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions put out a 14-day notice on March 11 for applicants to fill the seat and presently is still working on sending the governor recommendations from a tiny pool of applicants.
Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik’s Jan. 6 resignation, which came after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama administration guidance on nonenforcement of federal marijuana laws, created the vacancy. Welch was one of only two who applied for the board seat.
Jones agreed to postponement for some of the same reasons, he said.
“We came at it from different angles,” Jones said, referring to his work with Emmett as they drafted the latest proposal. “I also expected healthy debate among the four of us. I think we can also have a healthy debate in June with five members.”
At the June meeting, the board could debate the regulations, make amendments and send it out for a 60-day public comment period. The board would also have time to schedule public testimony on this latest draft, said Alaska Marijuana Control Office Director Erika McConnell.
The board meets June 13-15 in Anchorage.
“The soonest we could vote on this would be October,” Chair Mark Springer said, referring to the 60-day comment period required after the June meeting. “Even if we adopted it today, nobody would be in the consumption business until Christmas.”
If the newest draft regulation for onsite consumption is adopted, it will allow marijuana products to be sold to patrons much as a bar functions to legally dispense beverages. Once licensed, the premises would need to confine activities to a designated area. It would be separated from the remainder of the premises by a secure door and a separate ventilation system or located outside.
The debate for and against allowing onsite consumption has been before the board since its inception in July 2015. Each time a measure was put forth to allow it, the board either postponed the matter or voted it down.
Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected]