Mark your calendars friends, because Wednesday December 19th is an incredibly important day for the future of the Alaskan cannabis industry. The Marijuana Control Board will meet at 1 p.m. that day, at which time the public may offer comments. The board will then meet the next day to potentially decide on the matter.
What would onsite consumption look like in our state? And why is it necessary?
The way the rules are written now, adults over the age of 21 are allowed to possess and consume cannabis, but only in the privacy of their own homes, or out of view from their neighbors, on their own property. This means one of Alaska’s most profitable industries — tourism — isn’t allowed to profit much from legal cannabis. Unless a tourist has booked a stay at one of the few openly cannabis friendly establishments, they can’t legally consume their purchase anywhere. They’re also not legally allowed to take their purchase back home with them out of state, so many tourists don’t bother exploring the stores.
Then we have the rogue rebels who choose to light up while walking the streets of downtown Anchorage in the middle of the day because ‘weed is legal, man,’ and they know that it’s highly unlikely anyone will stop them. They know they can’t light up in their hotel room without risking a smoking fee, so they may decide to consume in public spaces such as parks, or along the coastal trail. This leaves people susceptible to breathing in unwanted second hand smoke.
Allowing onsite consumption gives cannabis users a safe place to consume. Besides that, it promotes the creation of community. We’re already seeing communities being built in the local recreational shops. Adding onsite consumption into the mix will only continue to foster this creation. And what happens when a bunch of cannabis users get together? Folks, the worst thing I’ve seen happen is two grown men, passionately debate who's a better author; J.R.R Tolkien, or George R.R Martin. Nerdjacking, that’s what we get.
We get people sitting around having intellectual conversations about cannabinoids, terpene profiles, nug structure, genetics, growing techniques, and who’s got the best fire where, for what price. Unlike alcohol users who tend to get loud and boisterous after enjoying a few rounds, cannabis users often get quieter, more introverted and self reflective. The worst thing they’re likely to do is annoy their friends with laughter and perhaps an overwhelming desire to eat cake.
While some may fear the increase of people driving after consuming, we need to consider how we approach this in regards to the alcohol industry. Do we not allow alcohol in bars or restaurants because people choose to drink and drive? No. We deal with the irresponsible folks separately, but we recognize that the majority of responsible adults are able to honor their own boundaries and limits, and choose to consume with caution. Should folks over do it, there’s always Uber or a cab, same as a bar.
Allowing onsite consumption will give Alaskan business owners an opportunity to provide jobs, service, and value to our communities. It will allow our tourism profits to increase significantly and will provide gathering spaces for the community to grow and flourish. But that’s not all onsite consumption could do for us.
States that have legalized medical marijuana, not to mention recreational, had 25 percent fewer opioid related deaths. Studies have shown us that providing community for addicts is a beneficial way to help them heal from their self destructive patterns. Giving addicts a place to go and a community to connect to is beneficial for everyone; it keeps the addict safe, less likely to engage in criminal behavior, and more likely to remain out of jail. Employing addicts gives them purpose and less opportunity to practice harmful behaviors. We’ve learned this by watching Portugal, which chose to decriminalize all substances (which is not the same as legalizing) and instead chose to dump the money they were spending on punishment into rehabilitation, offering employers government subsidies to employ addicts. And it’s working for them.
December 19th is our chance to come together collectively and let our voices be heard. Let’s stand up for our right to use cannabis safely, in designated areas. If you’re able to join us at 1:00 pm, your voice will be appreciated. Or...if you have a fantastic reason why onsite consumption should not be allowed, this is your time to speak up also. Use your voice.