Alaskan communities vote on local marijuana regulations

Now that Alaska has become the third state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, legislators are working on regulations for the commercial growth and retail sale of the drug while communities vote on local restrictions.

Haines has voted in favour of legalizing marijuana, waiting on state laws for direction

Communities in Alaska are waiting on state legislation to finalize their own laws for the commercial growth and retail sale of marijuana. (The Associated Press)

Now that Alaska has become the third state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, legislators are working on regulations for the commercial growth and retail sale of the drug. 

With nine months before the laws come into effect, the state must set regulations and settle any disputes, such as how many cannabis plants should be allowed in a single residence. The bill currently caps the number of cannabis plants at 12 per household - only half of which may be mature.

That measure doesn't go far enough for legalization advocates, who asked for a cap of 18 plants.

Heath Hilyard, chief of staff for the head of the regional affairs committee, says that as with alcohol, municipalities will have the right to block applications for marijuana businesses and set their own fine schedules for violations.

"Our ongoing efforts with regard to (marijuana legislation) has been to treat the municipalities as our stakeholders, and we're working with them to clarify any unanswered questions," he says. 

Communities can to vote to ban the sale or commercial growth of marijuana however, personal use - including transport of up to an ounce or six plants, will remain legal across Alaska.

Alaskan communities taking a 'wait and see' approach

The town of Haines, Alaska, located four hours south of Whitehorse, has voted in favour of pot legalization, but it needs to know what the state laws are before determining local marijuana laws.

Jan Hill, mayor of Haines Borough, says communities are also looking to other states that already have marijuana laws to determine how to proceed.

"One of the messages was: 'don't get in a big hurry,' and I think most people are actually pretty good with that," she says. 

Hill says Haines voted about 67 per cent in favour of pot legalization

"You know our community passed the initiative overwhelmingly and majority rules," she says, but notes that it's too early to say what marijuana laws Haines will adopt.

Hill says drug education will play a big component when local marijuana laws come into effect.

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