Official shares ideas for pot regulations

JUNEAU — The head of the board currently in charge of writing regulations for the legalized use of recreational pot in Alaska said Tuesday that rules on edibles, advertising and extraction methods should be part of the conversation.

Alcoholic Beverage Control board executive director Cindy Franklin presented ideas for new regulations during a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing, primarily centered around public safety concerns and keeping marijuana away from minors.

Voters in November approved an issue under which recreational marijuana becomes legal Feb. 24. The state then has nine months to write regulations.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said she plans to introduce a bill creating a marijuana board to develop regulations.

Franklin suggested regulating how potent edibles could be and disallowing “adulterated edibles,” which are prepackaged foods that are unwrapped, sprayed with marijuana and resold. When popular junk food is used for those, they can be particularly appealing to youths, she said.

Franklin also said a public education campaign is vital.

Representatives from several state departments and the Alaska Mental Health Trust also participated in the hearing.

Alaska State Troopers Maj. Dennis Casanovas testified that his agency is looking for clarity on the definition of marijuana, as the initiative offered a broader definition than other state laws.

However, with less than a month until adults can possess and transport up to an ounce of marijuana, Casanovas said troopers also are preparing for enforcement. The agency has ordered more than 400 battery-operated scales. Troopers and village public safety officers will use those to accurately weigh marijuana and marijuana concentrates when encountered, Casanovas said.

Assistant Attorney General Kaci Schroeder told legislators they will have to make a decision about whether hashish and hash oil would be treated the same as other forms of marijuana, as the initiative calls for, or separately, as they are currently.

Schroeder said hash oil is made differently than other marijuana concentrates and has a higher potency.

She raised other issues that the Law Department feels need further discussion, including whether a minor who has marijuana will be treated the same as a minor who has alcohol, what the penalty will be for violating community decisions to prohibit the new industry, and what will happen if someone tries to bring marijuana into a correctional facility.

Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority CEO Jeff Jessee reminded the committee that it has the constitutional right to amend the initiative for the next two years, and repeal it after that. He suggested extending the rulemaking timeline to better consider all of the issues involved.

When asked about the possibility of repeal during a Senate majority press conference Monday, lawmakers were noncommittal. In the short term, they have emphasized that they are trying to write the rules to uphold the will of the people.