Marijuana distribution laws are still up in the air in Alaska, but at least one local shop owner has attempted to take early advantage of the newly legal drug.
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett reported Buckshot and Bobby Pins, located on 7th and Broadway, to the Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs, formerly known as the Southeast Alaska Narcotics Task Force, in Juneau after receiving an anonymous letter.
The letter alleged that the store had been selling “large quantities of marijuana, edibles and concentrates throughout the season,” adding that they had been asking for donations.
After receiving the letter, Leggett said he investigated further by visiting the shop.
“I was making sure that she was crystal clear that, yes, it passed. But it wasn’t legal to [distribute] that yet,” he said.
Leggett said it was obvious what the store was doing, as a sign hung in the window with a picture of brownies and the date 4/20, a day generally associated with marijuana.
“We saw the flier. There wasn’t anything I could do with it,” he said.
But after receiving the letter, Leggett wanted to make sure the store knew its limitations.
Store owner Kristine Harder said the letter’s accusations are laughable.
“I was frankly shocked that the Skagway Police Department would put so much credence in an anonymous tip and go to the extremes of submitting a report to the Southeast Alaska Narcotics Task Force,” she said.
She said for those over 19, the store carries an assortment of smoking accessories, wooden and glass pipes, e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and hookahs.
The store also carries Cannabidiol Oil, or CBD, which is made from organic hemp and is often used medicinally. While it is not legal to grow hemp in the United States, the produced oil is legal and is imported from other countries. It does not offer the same benefits as CBD derived from Cannabis.
Harder said the store is not distributing drugs, but did confirm that they had handed out marijuana brownies during a private party.
“It was by invitation only, and we checked IDs. I know local jewelry stores serve champagne, beer and wine to their customers without repercussions,” she said. “It may be a generational issue, but our guests have different preferences.”
[quote_right] “It may be a generational issue, but our guests have different preferences.” [/quote_right]
Harder added that she was surprised to learn that giving away brownies qualified as drug distribution, as she thought she had been in compliance with new laws.
The private use of marijuana in Alaska was made legal in late February, with persons able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants per household, with only three flowering.
Use of the cannabis in public has been banned, with the definition of public as follows: “a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access and includes highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of amusement or business, parks, playgrounds, prisons, and hallways, lobbies, and other portions of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence.”
After legalizing marijuana, a Marijuana Control Board was created in an attempt to form laws and regulations for the substance.
The board met in Anchorage on August 11 to review questions surrounding marijuana related businesses.
The meeting yielded a few results: increasing the distance a marijuana facility can be from a school or recreation or youth center from 200 feet to 500 feet and eliminating a rule barring marijuana establishments from setting up shop adjacent to liquor-licensed premises.
They did not change the fees required for licensing: $5,000 for retailers, cultivators and manufacturers, and $1,000 for other license types, nor did they change the current law, which states only Alaska residents can own or invest in marijuana businesses.
In Juneau, the borough’s Juneau Marijuana Committee met on August 14 to discuss a limit on licenses allowed for marijuana retail stores, but after discussion and hesitation about said limits, the committee decided to table the discussion until they had more information.
So what about Skagway?
Discussions are in the works, but any formal decisions or plans have yet to be made.
During an August 20 Borough Assembly meeting, Assemblywoman Angela Grieser said she plans to work with the municipality in gathering information, and hopes to bring the issue forward to the Civic Affairs Committee.
Mayor Mark Schaefer said the municipality has not overreacted to the problem, but realizes that they are likely going to face issues.
“We have been building a running file on all of this stuff, including articles from around the state,” he said. “I think it’s something that will be addressed this fall.”
Leggett said other than the most recent issue, there have been no other marijuana related incidents.
But for those who continue to sell before the laws have been set, he says they could be facing a felony.
“Sooner or later it catches up to you, especially in the thriving metropolis of Skagway,” he said.
Harder said it is in her best interest to follow the letter of the law.
“In the future, we will be even more mindful in following the new laws that are emerging,” she said.