Alaska Residents Will Have to Wait Until February for Legal Pot


Alaska voters approved legalizing small amounts of cannabis for adults 21 an up on Tuesday, but it might be months before they can legally light up. According to Cynthia Franklin, head of Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, the bill won’t technically become law until 90 days after the election counting has been officially completed and certified, and that isn’t expected until November 28.

So, as it stands, marijuana possession in public is still illegal in Alaska, with misdemeanor charges carrying up to 90 days in jail and $2,000 for an ounce or less and up to a year in jail for carrying between one and four ounces.
That the measure faces a delay isn’t a surprise, though it is somewhat odd that Franklin would be warning people that until the bill has become law that “criminal statutes are still full force in effect.”
During a similar delay in 2012, courts in Colorado and Washington stopped accepting cases that would otherwise be legal under the new laws. Judges and district attorneys in those states said it would be hard to get a conviction to stick and that they had no real reason to try and enforce the laws that voters so clearly wanted changed.
Under Alaska’s new laws, adults 21 and up can have up to one ounce on them at a time in public. They can also grow up to six plants, with only three in flower at a time and the state will eventually license stores to sell cannabis legally. Smoking or using cannabis in public is illegal, punishable by a $100 fine. Once the new laws begin, residents can plant seeds and start legally growing.
But sales may be delayed a while. The state legislature is likely going to have to create a new Marijuana Control Board section of the state’s Department of Commerce first, and then allow the new agency to iron out the rules of the industry. That will likely take another year, with applications for pot businesse likely not being accepted until February 2016.