A Tour Guide to Navigating the Alaskan Marijuana Market
Summer is here, and that means tourists descend into the state in search of mountain sightings, whale sightings, and sometimes marijuana.
This summer marks the state’s first tourist season with operational marijuana stores. For travelers to Alaska, here’s what to expect, do and avoid.
What You Can Do // Retail Info // Marijuana and Driving // Traveling by Air // Ferries and Cruises // Smoking in Public // Hotels // National Parks // Medical Marijuana // Clubs and Delivery
What you can do
Anyone 21 years of age or older can buy and transport up to an ounce of marijuana. You can give and receive up to one ounce for free.
But the state still has places where marijuana isn’t allowed, like national parks and some private property.
The truth about retail stores
Marijuana stores have opened in many communities across Alaska, from Fairbanks to Sitka.
Bring your ID, as Alaska law requires businesses to verify it. Each store is a little different, but the marijuana will be behind the counter and a budtender will help you choose what you want. You can smell and look at the product, but not touch it.
Most stores have their current menus online – prices per grams tend to hover around $ 20. It is cash only. Some stores have ATMs. Budtenders love tips.
The state does not track customer information, but some stores request names and other information for their internal point of sale system.
Marijuana and driving
There is no state law that says you must transport marijuana in a certain way in your vehicle.
In Anchorage, you’re supposed to be carrying marijuana in the trunk of your car. If your car doesn’t have a trunk (like a sedan), it should be behind the last row of seats. It’s supposed to be in a sealed container that hasn’t been opened, according to Anchorage law.
If you’re high and driving, you could get a DUI. Law enforcement goes through standard field sobriety tests to decide whether a person is considered impaired, both the Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department have said.
Travel by plane
Under federal law, pilots who knowingly carry marijuana on a flight risk losing their certification. Alaska Airlines makes it clear that marijuana is not allowed on board, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage. A number of smaller airlines have a similar policy.
But for months, airport police have been letting small amounts of marijuana pass through security checkpoints in Anchorage and Fairbanks. (Transportation Security Administration employees call the police, who then clear travelers through the checkpoint with cannabis.)
The Juneau Police Department takes a hands-off approach, leaving it to the discretion of the TSA. They won’t confiscate your marijuana, Lt. JPD David Campbell said, but the TSA may force you to leave it behind.
So if you are traveling with marijuana, the local police may not stop you, but you are still taking a risk.
Alaska ferry system and cruise ships
The United States Coast Guard is the law enforcement agency on federal waterways, including those crossed by Alaska ferries and cruise lines.
“It’s illegal at the federal level and we’re trying to educate the public about it,” said Brian Dykens, spokesperson for the Alaska Coast Guard. “I can’t tell you what we would or wouldn’t do if we ran into drugs.”
But the Alaska Marine Highway System, including the popular southeast ferry routes, does not actively seek out people who transport marijuana, according to Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Alaska.
Usually, if crew members find someone with less than an ounce of marijuana, the person is told to put it away, McCarthy wrote. More than an ounce would be reported to law enforcement.
For Holland America cruises, the ships comply with federal law and do not allow marijuana on board, said Ralph Samuels, vice president of government and community relations at cruise ship operator Holland America Group.
Holland America informs people of what is not allowed on the ship after booking a cruise, Samuels said. And marijuana stores in Juneau are required to have signage telling customers that they are not allowed to take the product on a ship or plane.
When passengers board the cruise ship, much like at an airport, they go through a metal detector and their luggage goes through an x-ray machine.
“If someone had a bag of weed, we would take it from them,” Samuels said. “If it’s a cookie in a jar, I don’t know. Edibles, I just don’t know.”
Smoking in public
Public consumption is not permitted under Alaska law. You can be fined up to $ 100 if the police stop you.
As in other states, tourists are faced with a conundrum: If you can’t smoke in public, but don’t have a home to return to, where can you legally smoke weed?
So far there is no right answer. The state has long discussed whether to allow public spaces where marijuana use is legal, but the development of these rules is still an issue.
The public consumption fine is a citation – similar to a ticket – not a criminal charge. In Anchorage, six citations were issued between January and the end of March, according to Anchorage police.
Hotel rooms are considered private property and the local rules of a given city would determine what is allowed, said Erika McConnell, director of the state’s office of alcohol and marijuana control.
Many hotels have non-smoking policies. At Westmark Baranof hotel in Juneau, general manager Steve Hamilton said smoking marijuana in hotel rooms would be banned, as would tobacco. For edibles, Hamilton said he has no way of knowing when these are introduced, and “we’re not trying to be the police.”
Your best bet is to ask your AirBnB host or a member of staff at your hotel or other accommodation.
Alaska is home to 54 million acres of federal parks and reserves. But transporting and using marijuana on these vast tracts of federal land is not allowed.
If you’re caught with marijuana, you could face a federal citation, which is generally a misdemeanor, according to John Quinley, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.
So far, these quotes have been rare. In the past two and a half years, there have been two citations and one verbal warning to people who use marijuana, Quinley wrote. Two were in Denali National Park and Preserve and one in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Reserve.
If you have a medical card, it won’t go far in most marijuana stores. Alaska was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1998, but its rules do not allow dispensaries. In 2014, when voters legalized recreational marijuana, a separate medical system was not developed, much to the chagrin of some medical users. Regulators feared that if a dual system was created, prices and medical rules would undermine the regular trading market.
So far, no state rule explicitly prohibits discounts to medical cardholders, but stores typically do not offer these discounts. It’s considered a legal gray area, in part because stores aren’t allowed to provide medical advice to customers. Further clarification from the state will likely be needed on the matter.
Marijuana clubs and delivery services
A few marijuana delivery services operate in Alaska, but not with state blessing. Alaska laws do not allow the delivery of marijuana, and the owners of two delivery services face criminal charges.
The rules regarding marijuana clubs are still under review by the Marijuana Control Board. In Anchorage, one club owner faces criminal charges and a second with shutdown in April.
Journalist Annie Zak contributed to this article.
Do you have a question about tourism and cannabis? Send an email to [email protected]