Marijuana is legal for adults and is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol; state also has a medical marijuana law
Last update: November 17, 2022
Alaska Has Been a Trailblazer in Cannabis Policy
Alaska residents have been among the earliest supporters of cannabis policy reform. Back in 1998, Alaska voters made their state the second (tied with Washington and Oregon) to legalize medical cannabis, though there was no way for patients to legally purchase it. In 2014, Alaska became the third state (tied with Oregon) to legalize cannabis for adults’ use.
On November 4, 2014, 53% of Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2, legalizing cannabis for adults’ use. Residents 21 and older can now legally grow up to six plants at home and purchase up to one ounce of flower or seven grams of concentrate. However, Alaska still has no way for patients under 21 to purchase medical cannabis, and medical patients over 21 are not exempt from cannabis taxes.
While some cities and towns have banned retail sales, Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks are among the many jurisdictions that have retail cannabis stores.
Alaska Governor Establishes Adult Use Cannabis Task Force
On September 21, 2022, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) issued an administrative order to create a Governor’s Advisory Task Force on Recreational Cannabis. Their goals include reviewing the state’s current cannabis tax and fee structures and adult use regulations, and providing recommendations for improvement in the governor’s office.
In 2014 when cannabis was legalized in Alaska, the measure included a $50 per ounce excise tax on sales from growers. Alaska’s 2021 fiscal year produced an estimated $30 million in cannabis tax revenue alone.
"In the past seven years Alaska's marijuana industry has flourished but is still considered a new and evolving industry in Alaska," Gov. Dunleavy said in a public statement. "As we would expect to see with any new industry, concerns have been raised about the structure the industry has been operating under."
The Task Force consists of 13 voting members, including several agency heads, a member of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board, a local government representative in a locality allowing cannabis sales, representatives of cannabis businesses, and a member of the public. The task force plans to meet monthly and submit a report by January 13, 2023.
Alaska becomes first state to license on-site cannabis consumption
In 2019, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board approved the first businesses to allow on-site use of cannabis products in the state. At least two cannabis retailers — Good Titrations in Fairbanks and Cannabis Corner in Ketchikan — now allow on-site consumption. Other stores have received state approval but have not yet opened.
Retail businesses interested in participating must apply for a special on-site use endorsement and devise plans that meet security, ventilation, and other standards required by the Marijuana Control Board. Local governments can object to on-site consumption endorsements and use a municipal ordinance or a vote of the people to prohibit on-site use or aspects of it, such as smoking.
Alaska’s cannabis policies lag behind some states
While Alaska’s cannabis laws have come a long way, in some ways other states have surpassed them. Several states — including California, New Jersey, and New York — provide employment protections for cannabis consumers. About half of the nation’s 37 medical cannabis states provide similar legal protections. But in Alaska, both medical cannabis and adult-use consumers can still be fired for using cannabis off-hours and for testing positive many hours, days, or even weeks later.
Unlike several other states, Alaska has also failed to expunge past convictions for individuals convicted of cannabis crimes before legalization.
On April 20, 2022, the Alaska House of Representatives passed HB246, which would have removed past records of simple cannabis charges from a public online database. It also would have changed the charge of possession for 18–20-year-olds from a jailable misdemeanor to a fine-only violation. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass this bill and it died in committee.
Make sure you’re signed up for MPP’s email alerts so we can keep you posted about efforts to fix shortcomings in Alaska’s cannabis laws — including adding employment protections, expunging (or at least shielding) past cannabis convictions, and reducing the penalty for those under 21 to a civil fine instead of a jailable offense.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Alaska, be sure to subscribe to MPP's alerts, if you haven't done so already.
Encourage Gov. Dunleavy to maintain and extend good cannabis policies.
As governments today respond to COVID-19, it’s critical that medical patients maintain access to cannabis for medical use. This is particularly true in Alaska, and we are asking for your help.
Please join with us in asking Gov. Mike Dunleavy to ensure that cannabis businesses, which serve patients along with adult consumers, are included as essential businesses. Click here to send a message to the governor to thank him for keeping…