Although marijuana is legal in a handful of states for recreational use, the powers that be in most of those jurisdictions have put their foot down when it comes to allowing cannabis users to consume the herb in a public setting in the same way that has been done with alcohol for decades. But not Alaska. Earlier this week Lieutenant Governor Kevin Myers put his signature on a bill that will allow licensed dispensaries to open up social consumption sites for those 21 and older.
As of the mid-April, dispensaries all across Alaska can apply for an exclusive license to open a cannabis lounge section in their stores. There are a few stipulations: This part of the operation must be completely separate from the retail side of the dispensary, but there are no rules are whether the smoking section must be inside or outdoors. It is conceivable that it could even be both.
Dispensaries must also provide security and ventilation that meets the standards of the Marijuana Control Board. And unlike a bar situation, where patrons can drink as much as like as long as they don’t start fighting or bothering others, there are some serving limits. Reefer retailers may only sell one gram of weed (or one 10 mg edible) to a customer a day. It’s far from a perfect system, but it is one that cannabis advocates hope more states will start to embrace very soon.
“By preventing retail outlets and other venues from being licensed and regulated for social consumption, many patients will have to choose between effective cannabis treatment for their ailments or being thrown out of public housing,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri saidin a statement. “This causes the civil liberties that come with marijuana legalization to still being kept at arm’s length from low-income individuals and members of other marginalized communities.”
While Alaska is the first state to legalize social pot consumption, it is not the only spot in the United States where the concept is being implemented. In San Francisco, a similar model is being used. Dispensaries there can provide a special section for patrons to use marijuana in a social setting.
Denver also has a social use law now, only it doesn’t allow smoking and patrons must bring their own weed. The other major setback to the system is the city now only has one participating location. The other licensed shop went out of business earlier this year. So, it’s pretty rag-tag as far as the kind of cannabis lounge model that advocates would like to see implemented elsewhere.
Social marijuana use is struggling to take off in the United States.
Maine was supposed to have a social marijuana use component – at least it was written in the language of the law – but regulators have not created a system for it as of yet. It is essentially the same deal in Massachusetts. Las Vegas is another city where lawmakers have been pushing for cannabis lounges.
Alaska understands that what it is doing is new and that many other jurisdictions are looking to it as a guide.
“This is something that’s not happening anywhere else in the U.S. yet. As we start to develop this, people are really looking at us, so I know that everybody wants to get it right,” Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, told the Associated Press.