The state’s Marijuana Control Board met last week. On the itinerary were the public consumption regulations. This is a key component that is currently lacking in our community and, without, it the discrimination and profiteering against the cannabis community continues.
Many people supported Ballot Measure 2 in 2014 because they wanted decriminalization to come along with the now legal market. The thought was if everyday people in our community have a legal place to purchase cannabis, there wouldn’t be any need for black market sales or criminal consequences. The problem is, under the current regulations, there is no legal place to consume the legal product, except in your own home. Even that can get pretty complicated for a good percentage of people in our community who live in multi-unit and nonsmoking homes. I personally know of a young single mother who is being evicted for consuming cannabis, once, in her government subsidized home.
Medical cannabis is another reason that voters were in favor of Ballot Measure 2. Residents of Golden Towers and the Denali Center fall into a category of cannabis consumers that happens to be the fastest growing demographic — senior citizens. These are people who are older, mature, retired and looking for relief and wellness through homeopathic alternatives. Why shouldn’t there be a safe and accessible place for our elders to come together and enjoy cannabis and find the relief they are seeking? Why should these people feel like criminals for lighting up in their own home when they have no choice?
Another group of people negatively affected under the current regulations are tourists. Tourists expect to sample cannabis as a part of the Alaska experience. Once they acquire legal cannabis, where are they to turn to consume their purchase? Here is an example of what I am referring to: A friend of mine was recently in Anchorage for a medical appointment for her spouse. After his lengthy open heart procedure, she went back to her hotel room to try to relax and rest. She literally took one hit of cannabis from her pipe after getting out of the shower and within a few minutes management had been alerted and she was turned out onto the streets, not to mention her room rental was not refunded. She was also charged an additional cleaning fee for smoking in her room. This whole ordeal cost a displaced person almost $700 by the time she rented another room for the night. This would not have happened had there been a place to legally consume cannabis. This is a disgrace in a state where consuming and possessing cannabis is legal. And this treatment doesn’t entice a new visitor of our state to return. You have to ask yourself, “Would this same thing have happened with one puff of tobacco?”
I think we all know it wouldn’t have, not in a million years.
Cannabis clubs open the door for employment and business opportunities such as cannabis cabs, specialty bud tenders, bouncers, food and beverage vendors, cannabis tours, etc.
Those opposing public consumption do so because of bias and assumption. They assume people will drive while intoxicated. They assume cannabis consumers are addicted and that crime rates will increase. They are biased and opposed to those who choose to medicate and recreate in a manner that differs from their own. This is not the Alaska way. I also believe, despite the overwhelming benefit of cannabis in comparison with other substances, there is still much stigma associated with its use and with the people who use it. In reality, we are talking about people playing music and board games while sharing some baked goods and a pipe. That is the literal and actual reality of the day-to-day events at Fairbanks’ first cannabis club, The Higher Calling. It was a wholesome place for good people to come together. I met many remarkable people at this club. We did craft projects and shared our homegrown cannabis with each other. It’s offensive that, in comparison to the murder trend at other venues, people actually concern themselves with cannabis use.
Please speak out during public comment and let your representatives know that our community deserves the opportunities this legislation will bring, and that you support the development of cannabis clubs and public places to sample and consume cannabis here in Fairbanks. Submit written comments to the Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office, 550 W. Seventh Ave. Suite 1600, Anchorage, AK 99501. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city of Fairbanks will be addressing this and a few other cannabis related points of interest at their special work session 5 p.m. May 23. Please mark your calendar.