Alaskans can keep, grow and transport pot under the 2014 legalization law, but can't legally buy or sell until businesses get licensed. (Bob Hallinen, Anchorage Daily News file, via Associated Press)

Moving glacially: Alaska regulators still mulling how to navigate weed biz

JUNEAU, Alaska — The board tasked with regulating the Alaska marijuana industry provided guidance Thursday for yet-to-be-drafted rules to allow for people to use marijuana at certain stores that will sell it.

Staff to the Marijuana Control Board had hoped to provide language for an onsite consumption retail endorsement for the meeting but, given its workload, did not have time to complete a draft, board director Cynthia Franklin said.

On Feb. 24, a full year after marijuana officially became legal in Alaska, the board is to begin accepting applications for marijuana business licenses, and Franklin said staff has been inundated with questions.

A tentative timeline provided to the board indicated the approval of the first cultivation and testing licenses could happen in June. But the board will have to discuss the handling of retail and product manufacturing license applications, Franklin said. The issuance of licenses for those facilities assumes there is marijuana grown in a licensed cultivation facility available, she said. A crop life is estimated at 90 days, she said.

The board has passed regulations prohibiting retail stores and product manufacturing facilities from using or selling marijuana not grown in a licensed facility, she said. The solution could lie in guidance from the board on when applications for those licenses would be deemed complete and trigger the 90-day window for approval or denial, she said.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board approved various forms that will be part of the application process. Members also gave ideas on issues related to the onsite consumption endorsement for retail stores that receive that approval. The goal was to provide direction to the staff in drafting language that would be brought back to the board.

Discussed was whether, for example, people would buy marijuana or marijuana products in one area and go into another area to consume or if retailers would have to have a separate consumption area.

Board chair Bruce Schulte suggested maybe having an area where people can buy products they want to take with them and also having an onsite consumption area with a list of products available that must be consumed there.

Members also indicated support for such things as limits on how much customers can be served, ventilation rules and a right of local government protest for the endorsement.

Voters in 2014 approved legalizing recreational pot in Alaska for those 21 and older. But until businesses are licensed, it is illegal to buy or sell pot.