We Alaskans have statutory and constitutional language available to determine whether cannabis social clubs are lawful. The “Act to tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana” begins: “In the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, and to enhance individual freedom, the people of the state of Alaska find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older.”
Further, “the provisions of this Act are not intended to diminish the right to privacy as interpreted by the Alaska Supreme Court in Ravin v. State of Alaska.” Under the Act, it’s lawful for persons 21 and older to consume marijuana, “except that nothing in this chapter shall permit the consumption of marijuana in public.” Under this Act, it’s lawful in Alaska for persons 21 years and older to assist one another to use cannabis.
Useful language from the Alaska Constitution: ARTICLE I, Declaration of Rights. Section 1, Inherent Rights. “…all persons have a natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry.” Section 6. “Assembly; Petition. The right of the people peaceably to assemble . . . shall never be abridged.”
What is a cannabis social club? By statute, adult use of cannabis is lawful, except in public. Therefore, Alaskans have peaceably assembled to form private social clubs, similar to the VFW and the Elks, who consume alcohol; cannabis social clubs consume cannabis.
Adult cannabis consumption in private is lawful; therefore club members may gather to consume cannabis in a private place of assembly secured from the public.
The Kachemak Cannabis Coalition (KCC) is an Alaska non-profit with an educational mission. We formed our cannabis social club as a project of the coalition to provide a safe, convivial place to socialize, study and share cannabis. When asked, we assist members to learn about, obtain and heal with medical cannabis. The Kachemak Cannabis Club, called a first amendment club by its members, is willing to serve as a test case.
A cannabis social club must meet the public/private test: When a prospective member enters the cannabis club, he/she must present adult identification; is invited to peruse, discuss and initial the rules of the club; pays membership fees; signs onto the club’s member roster; and must conform to club standards of decorum. Membership may be terminated for cause, in which case the member reverts to “public” status and may no longer enter the club.
Membership is distinguished from mere admission, as when the public pays an admission fee to attend a movie. Membership is a higher bar than admission, designed to promote safe, convivial social life and secure the private social club from dangerous, annoying, inappropriate and culturally insensitive behaviors.
A cannabis social club does not engage in cannabis growing, processing, testing or retail sales under the Act to tax and regulate. Therefore, the cannabis social club exists outside the regulation of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board. The cannabis social club is protected (1) by statute, because the Act makes it lawful for adults to possess and consume cannabis, and (2) by Alaskans’ constitutional right to assemble peacefully, which shall NEVER be abridged.
Can cannabis social clubs operate in a district that has “opted out” under the Act to tax and regulate? Yes, the right of the people to peaceably assemble cannot be abridged, regardless of whether a borough or town opts out of permitting commercial cannabis establishments.
What does this mean for adult Alaskans who consume cannabis?
Form cannabis social clubs! Your club can be a small village/neighborhood club in a private home, or a larger town club. Carefully frame your club rules. Observe and enforce your rules. Be responsive, considerate and friendly with your neighbors over issues like parking and cannabis aroma. Offer potluck foods. Keep your club secure, orderly and clean. In your town, village or neighborhood, establish your club as a responsible, adult presence committed to public service.
Then the good times roll. How best to serve the community? Ideas hatch! We study, learn, and speak publicly. We share food and medicine and grow healthy together as friends heal each other of cancers, sleep disorders, seizures, PTSD and big pharma addictions. With compassion, humor, and independent thought, we peacefully resolve issues. Our club is preparing to welcome canna-tourists this summer.
Amazing things happen when free people engage in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Remember, cannabis is the cutting edge of civil liberties in our age. What you do for cannabis, you do for the liberty of all.
Lindianne Sarno is a musician, composer, educator, contemporary historian, farmer and director of the Kachemak Cannabis Coalition.