Alaska marijuana retail stores should open by year's end, but the timing will depend in part on when stores have a supply of marijuana approved by laboratories that is legal for sale. Pictured: Alaska Marijuana Control Board member Brandon Emmett of Fairbanks, right, and Cynthia Franklin, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, are shown at the board's meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on June 9, 2016. (Mark Thiessen, The Associated Press)

More marijuana moves in Alaska: Regulators set to approve retail licenses

JUNEAU, Alaska — The board regulating Alaska’s fledgling legal marijuana industry is expected to approve licenses this week for the state’s first retail marijuana outlets.

The state’s Marijuana Control Board also is expected to discuss whether certain retail stores will be given permission to have areas where customers can light up — a key issue since tourists and others would otherwise be prohibited from doing so in public.

Here is a look at where Alaska stands on marijuana sales:

Q: What’s happened so far?

A: Regulators have been writing rules for the industry since last year, after a voter initiative approved recreational use of marijuana by those 21 and older. The Marijuana Control Board has approved about 50 licenses for marijuana business operators so far, but no licenses have been approved yet for retail outlets.

Starting Wednesday, the board will consider dozens more license applications, including requests from people who want to open stores to sell marijuana and those who want to manufacture marijuana products.

Q: When will I be able to buy marijuana at a retail store?

A: That’s not clear.

Retail stores should open by year’s end, but the timing will depend in part on when stores have a supply of marijuana approved by laboratories that is legal for sale, said Cynthia Franklin, director of the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

The marijuana board has focused first on licensing people to grow marijuana and the labs that will test it.

The next step is to approve the retail outlets and product manufacturers.

Q: Will Alaska allow pot cafes?

A: That is one of the biggest unanswered questions that the Marijuana Control Board has before it.

Earlier this year, it proposed allowing cannabis shops to sell marijuana for use at the shops — like bars sell alcohol.

But the board retreated from that stance in July after one member expressed concerns and proposed a narrower plan that would allow people to buy marijuana products to smoke, inhale or consume in food, like a brownie, in an authorized store and go into a separate area to partake. They would be allowed to take resealed unused portions with them.

The board has been trying to find a way to accommodate tourists. Public consumption is banned except for in authorized stores, and the proposed rule for onsite use has yet to be finalized.

Franklin said many people who have submitted comments on the proposal oppose allowing people to smoke marijuana in authorized stores.

If Alaska approves allowing people to consume marijuana in the stores, it would be among the first U.S. states approving recreational pot use at retail marijuana outlets.