State Seeks ‘Creative Ideas’ To Handle Cash From Alaska Pot Businesses

ALASKA: Struggling with the prospect of handling millions of dollars in cash from commercial marijuana businesses, Alaska’s Department of Revenue is holding three brainstorming sessions to get ideas for how to handle the influx of taxes in an industry shut off from basic banking practices.

 “It’s an uncharted territory. … We don’t have any precedent to go off of, really,” said Claire Lettow, regulations specialist for the state Tax Division.

Since marijuana remains illegal federally, Alaska’s financial institutions so far aren’t opening their doors to commercial businesses. That means, like other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, businesses will be dealing in cash. Potentially a lot of cash.

Alaska’s Department of Revenue estimates that it will take in between $5.1 million and $19.2 million in tax revenue from commercial marijuana in 2016.

Alaska Marijuana Bills Put On Hold For Rewrite

ALASKA:  Bills that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana have been put on hold while lawmakers wait for a new draft that better reflects the intent of voters.

During a joint session of the House and Senate Judiciary committees Wednesday, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, said the bills, versions of which were introduced in both the House and Senate, are being rewritten. The bills were intended to legalize 1 ounce or less of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

But they raised concerns from marijuana legalization supporters and the state’s public defender agency. They said the method proposed for decriminalizing the drug didn’t match what voters asked for in approving an initiative that would legalize recreational use of pot.


Alaska Legalized Weed 39 Years Ago. Wait, What?

ALASKA:  Yes, you read that headline right. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that the right to possess, cultivate and consume small amounts of marijuana in the home was protected under the state Constitution’s right to privacy.

As you might imagine, that ruling has faced some opposition over the years, and has been placed into legal limbo from time to time due to various ballot and legislative challenges. But Alaska courts have repeatedly andconsistently upheld the notion that Constitutional privacy protections cover the personal possession, cultivation and use of marijuana in Alaska.

“Alaskans can currently lawfully possess up to four ounces of marijuana in their homes for personal use [and cultivate up to 25 plants], but still risk prosecution under existing state and federal statutes,” concludes University of Alaska law professor Jason Brandeis in an exhaustive history of Alaska marijuana law (which makes for a pretty interesting read if you’re into such things). You could still technically be charged with marijuana possession if caught with less than four ounces in your home, but a court would essentially have to throw the charge out.

This puts Alaska in a unique position: in some respects its marijuana laws are more liberal than those in the Netherlands, which outlaw personal cultivation completely. While all eyes are on Colorado and Washington to see how those experiments with legal marijuana turn out, Alaska, with 39 years of (admittedly complicated) legalization history is largely overlooked: you’d think that forces on both sides of the national marijuana debate would be looking to Alaska for answers and arguments. Why aren’t they?


Missed Deadline Pushes Alaska Marijuana Initiatives To General Election

ALASKA:  Because the Legislature did not meet its midnight deadline, three citizen’s initiatives are expected to be moved from the August primary to the November general election.

The switch would happen because of a constitutional rule requiring a 120-day waiting period after a legislative session before an initiative can be put to a vote. It would affect ballot questions to slow down the proposed Pebble Mine, to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and to hike the minimum wage. The rule does not apply to referenda, so a measure to repeal the new oil tax law would stay on the August ballot.

The rescheduling of initiatives is expected to help the anti-repeal effort, which the oil industry has sunk millions of dollars into. That’s because the initiatives are expected to bring more liberal-leaning voters to the polls, and that increased turnout will no longer affect the primary.