Cannabis in Alaska travelled a twisted road to arrive at its current legalized state. Alaska was the second state in the U.S. to decriminalize cannabis after President Richard Nixon passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1971. In 1975, the Alaska Legislature imposed a $100 fine for possession, effectively decriminalizing the plant, though stopping short of legalizing it.
Also that year, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that Alaskan adults had the right to use and possess a small amount of cannabis for personal use, according to Alaskan’s constitutional rights to personal privacy. In 1982, the $100 fine was removed. In 1986, Alaska legislature decriminalized the possession of up to four ounces (4 oz.), or 113.4 grams, of usable cannabis in the home and up to one ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, outside of the home.
However, the pendulum swung back towards prohibition in the late 1980s. On the heels of multiple cannabis trafficking busts, voters in 1990 approved the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, or Ballot Measure 2. This law made cannabis possession a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.
On the other hand,voters in 1998 approved the Alaska Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Measure 8, a bill that legalized medical cannabis use for qualifying individuals. However, these regulations were contradictory. While they legalized cannabis possession and use, there was no legal way for patients and caregivers to obtain the drug.
In Noy v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed a 2003 case of cannabis possession criminalized by 1990’s Measure 2, citing precedent set by Ravin v. State. Two other attempts were made to legalize recreational cannabis use: Measure 5 in 2000 and Measure 2 in 2004, but both measures failed.
Anti-cannabis sentiment gained the upper hand in 2006, when the Alaska Legislature passed a law that once again criminalized possession. One ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, or more merited a misdemeanor punishable with up to 90 days in jail; four ounces (4 oz.), or 113.4 grams, earned up to a year in jail, and more than four ounces (4 oz.), or 113.4 grams, was a felony. This law was heavily pushed by Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, who was publicly against cannabis use.
The Alaska Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or Measure 2, was approved by 53% of voters in 2014 and allowed for the regulation, production, sale, and use of recreational cannabis. Measure 2 went into effect February 2015, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, of usable cannabis and up to six (6) cannabis plants, three (3) of which are mature, at home for personal use. With the passage of Measure 2, Alaska became the third state to legalize recreational cannabis.
Measure 2’s passage changed the Alcohol Beverage Control Board into the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (AMCO), which established the Marijuana Control Board (MCB) in 2015 to regulate and govern recreational cannabis use.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) regulates the Medical Marijuana Registry.
Where is it Safe to Purchase?
Under Measure 2, adults 21 and older are able to purchase and consume cannabis from state-licensed retailers and establishments with a valid onsite consumption endorsement. They are able to purchase up to one ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, of usable cannabis or 7 grams of cannabis concentrate, or total cannabis less than 5.6 grams of THC. Adults looking to consume cannabis onsite are limited to purchase one (1) gram, or 0.035 ounce, or less per transaction.
Alaska cannabis shoppers must show a valid state ID as proof of age. At licensed cannabis retail stores, consumers can purchase flower, edibles, concentrates, topicals, tinctures, salves, patches, drinks, and consumption accessories. At this time, most retail stores accept cash only. Consumers are not subject to any sales or use tax on cannabis purchases, but a $50-per-ounce (28.35 grams) tax is levied when cultivators sell to manufacturers or dispensaries.
There are currently no dispensaries offering specifically medical cannabis for purchase. Therefore, patients and caregivers must purchase marijuana at licensed recreational retailers. Patients younger than 21 must have a caregiver purchase cannabis products on their behalf.
Alaska law prohibits the home delivery of cannabis products to consumers.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Public cannabis consumption is prohibited throughout the state. Legal consumption may only occur on private property or in an establishment with a valid onsite consumption endorsement. Onsite users can purchase up to 1 gram of products with a limit of 10 milligrams of THC to be consumed onsite. However, lawmakers are still drafting regulations covering onsite consumption, and laws most likely won’t be adopted until at least early 2019.
Adults can consumer flower, edibles, concentrates, oils, tinctures, salves drinks, patches and topical cannabis products. Under Measure 2, cannabis use is prohibited within 500 feet, or 152.4 meters, of schools, youth and recreation centers, places of worship, correctional facilities, or correctional facilities.
Measure 2 does not prevent landlords or employers from prohibiting or regulating cannabis use on their property, either for medical or recreational use. Designated caregivers cannot consume any cannabis or products intended for patients, but they may consume their own supply for personal use.
Legal consumers may possess one ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, of any form of marijuana. They may also give, but not sell, up to one ounce, (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, of marijuana and six (6) immature plants to a person who is 21 or older.
The Alaska Marine Highway System prohibits the transport of cannabis on Alaska Ferries, and it is illegal to transport marijuana out of state, even to another state where it is legal.
to Be to Consume?
Consumers may carry cannabis in their vehicles, but it must be in a sealed container or in the trunk.
Measure 2 does not prevent landlords from prohibiting or regulating the use of cannabis on their property, whether for medical or recreational use.
Adults and patients may individually grow, process, and transport up to six (6) immature marijuana plants with up to three (3) or fewer being flowering plants. They can also possess marijuana produced by plants at home. However, a single dwelling may have up to 12 marijuana plants present, with six (6) or fewer being flowering plants, regardless of how many adults older than 21 reside there. Additionally, the cultivation site must not be subject to public view without the use of binoculars, aircraft, or other optical enhancements.
Medical Marijuana Registry
Alaska’s DHSS runs the Medical Marijuana Registry. Visit the DHSS website for patient and caregiver application forms.
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Chronic or severe pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Persistent muscle spasms
- Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe nausea
Patients must be diagnosed with one of the above debilitating conditions to qualify for medical marijuana use. To apply, patients must obtain a signed physician’s statement and have received an examination in the 16 months prior to application.
If a patient is a minor, a parent or guardian must submit a signed statement that the physician has explained the risks and benefits of medical marijuana. Also, the parent or guardian must be the patient’s primary caregiver, apply for a Medical Marijuana Registry card, and control patient access to medical cannabis.
All registry forms and documents are confidential. At this time, private and state-operated insurance companies do not cover medical marijuana expenses. Patients are required to have a Medical Marijuana Registry ID card to receive protected status. No correctional facility, medical facility, employer, school campus or recreation center is required to accommodate medical cannabis use.
To join the Alaska Medical Marijuana Registry, potential patients must complete the following steps:
- Submit the original copy of the application.
- Obtain and submit a signed form of the physician’s statement stating that the patient has been diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating medical condition.
- Submit a photocopy of the Alaska driver’s license or identification card of the patient and caregivers.
- Pay a $25 registration fee for original card, or $20 for a renewal. Payments can be made by check or money order.
If there is any error with the application, patients will not receive a refund and cannot re-apply for six (6) months. Any changes in address, primary caregiver, or other personal details must be submitted to the MMR within 10 days of occurrence. All registry documents are confidential.
To become a qualified medical marijuana caregiver, Alaska residents must meet the following requirements:
- Caregivers must be at least 21 years of age and be a permanent resident of Alaska.
- Caregivers must be listed by the patient as either the primary caregiver or an alternate caregiver.
- A person may be a primary caregiver or alternate caregiver for only one patient at a time, unless the primary caregiver or alternate caregiver is simultaneously caring for two or more patients who are related to the caregiver by blood or marriage.
- The caregiver must not have been convicted of a felony controlled substance offense.
Alaska residents seeking to become qualified caregivers must include their name on their designated patient’s application for the Medical Marijuana Registry. They must also include a sworn statement they are at least 21 years old, with proof on a photo ID, and that they have never been convicted of a felony controlled substance offense.
Physicians must examine a potential patient in person in the course of bona fide patient-doctor relationship to determine a qualifying medical condition exists. The physician must submit a signed statement attesting to, the patient possibly benefiting from medical cannabis use after considering other treatments.
No physician shall be subject to penalties for advising a patient with a qualifying condition that he or she might benefit from medical cannabis use.
Visitors 21 and older with a valid ID can purchase up to one ounce (1 oz.), or 28.35 grams, of usable cannabis, or seven (7) grams of cannabis concentrate, or total cannabis less than 5.6 grams of THC. However, cannabis may only be consumed on private property or at licensed consumption sites.
Alaska does not recognize medical marijuana cards issued by other states. Rhode Island and Michigan accept Alaska MMR ID cards through their state reciprocity programs.
Alaska laws require that all cannabis offered for sale in licensed stores be tested by state-licensed testing facilities. Licensed cultivation and processing facilities are responsible for submitting all cannabis products for testing.
Certified Labs must test for the following:
- Cannabinoid analysis (THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBN)
- Bacterial screening
- Mold screening
- Poisons, toxins, harmful chemicals
- Residual solvents
Licensing for Growers, Manufacturers, Processors, Retailers etc.
Under Measure 2, the MCB grants cannabis licenses for four types of establishments: cultivators, processors, dispensaries, and testing labs. Each are subject to an annual licensing fee as well as a non-refundable application fee and renewal fee.
|License Type||Annual Fee||Application Fee||Renewal Fee|
|Limited(<500 sq ft.)||$1,000||$1,000||$600|
Individuals or entities seeking cannabis establishment licenses may not have a felony conviction or cannabis-related misdemeanor within the last five (5) years. All applicants must be residents of Alaska. Lab testing facilities must also undergo proficiency training to ensure that operations meet all regulatory requirements. All licensee employees must have a cannabis handler card, which costs $50.
Each cannabis license is per location and applicants must specify one type of cannabis license per application. Applicants can, however, apply for multiple licenses, i.e. a cultivation and a processing license can be held by a single entity. This does not apply to testing labs: retail, cultivation, or processor license-holders are not allowed to have a financial interest in any testing lab operations.
At the time of application, potential cannabis businesses have 90 days in which to make a local public announcement of intent to open a cannabis facility. Any incomplete application will receive notice from the MCB and have 90 days to complete it, otherwise they must file a new application. The MCB will make a final decision within 90 days of receiving a complete license application.
On May 1 of each year, the MCB will issue renewal notices to all licensees, to be completed no later than June 30. If a licensee fails to renew within that time, they’re subject to a late renewal fee of $1,000. If a licensee fails to renew by August 31, the license will expire.
Measure 2 empowers local Alaska governments to recommend operating conditions to the MCB, including numeric limits on licensed cannabis establishments. If the MCB approves any conditions, local governments are responsible for monitoring licensee compliance.
This page was last updated on November 5, 2018