- Associated Press - Friday, March 13, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Senate Finance Committee on Friday further amended the bill that would update state laws following the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Now, the bill would prohibit the commercial and retail marijuana industry from the parts of the state’s unorganized borough that are not in a municipality. The bill would allow established villages to opt back in to a new marijuana industry. That change was proposed by Bethel Democrat Sen. Lyman Hoffman.

Alaska voters in November approved a ballot issue that legalized recreational marijuana, directed the state to develop regulations for a new commercial industry, and allowed communities to prohibit that industry either by voter initiative or government ordinance.

The state Legislature sits as the assembly for the unorganized borough.

Hoffman said he wanted to protect rural Alaskans, and have the conversation about prohibiting marijuana before it became a problem in those communities.



Sens. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, voted against it. Micciche said he’d rather leave the decision to prohibit marijuana in the hands of each community, than act on their behalf, particularly given that many voted in favor of legalization.

Another amendment would prohibit marijuana concentrates in two years. That came at the request of Fairbanks Republican Sen. Pete Kelly. That amendment would not be enacted for two years, because voter initiatives cannot be dramatically changed for that length of time, although the Legislature can make minor changes.

That amendment passed in a 4-3 vote, with Sens. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, joining Micciche in voting against it.

Kelly said that he was concerned about the effects of concentrates on everyone, particularly children, and didn’t think Alaskans realized that they were voting for such a dangerous substance when they legalized marijuana.

MacKinnon said she shared Kelly’s concerns about marijuana, but she also noted that there is room for regulators to limit concentrates, including its packaging, dosages and advertising.

The committee also agreed unanimously to other amendments, including one that would make it a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, to bring marijuana into a correctional facility.

MacKinnon, the committee’s co-chair, said the panel would meet Saturday morning to review a draft of the bill with all the amendments made so far.

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