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Alaska Becomes First State to Legalize Social Cannabis Consumption

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Lawmakers and regulators have signed off on new regulations explicitly permitting adults to consume cannabis at specially licensed retailers.

“When these rules go into effect, Alaska will be the first state to finalize and approve statewide rules for on-site consumption. We expect more to follow suit in the not too distant future,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Allowing social consumption is sensible from a business perspective, particularly for states with large amounts of tourists who otherwise have no place to legally consume, but it also has an important social justice component.”

“By preventing retail outlets and other venues from being licensed and regulated for social consumption, many patients will have to choose between effective cannabis treatment for their ailments or being thrown out of public housing,” Altieri continued, “This causes the civil liberties that come with [cannabis] legalization to still being kept at arm’s length from low-income individuals and members of other marginalized communities.”

Under the new rules, which take effect April 11, licensed cannabis retailers may apply with state regulators for an additional “on site consumption endorsement.” Local governments may challenge the applications in certain instances, or initiate a municipal vote to limit on site activities.

It is anticipated that the initial on site consumption areas may be approved by this summer.

While some local municipalities — such as Denver, Colorado and West Hollywood, California — already regulate on site consumption sites, Alaska is the first adult use jurisdiction to establish such regulations statewide.

According to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for cannabis-related violations in 2017. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrests for the commission of violent crimes (518,617) in 2017. Of those arrested for cannabis crimes, just under 91 percent (599,000) were arrested for cannabis possession offenses, a slight increase over last year’s annual totals. Total cannabis arrests in 2017 increased for the second straight year, after having fallen for nearly a decade.

Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional fifteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of [cannabis],” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safetycrime ratestraffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

Specifically, a 2019 report estimates that over 211,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abusehospitalizations, and mortality.

NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality cannabis that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Find out more at www.norml.org and read our factsheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country at www.norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets

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