Here Come Hash Bars - Alaska to Allow Onsite Consumption

Soon the state of Alaska will be a frontier not only geographically but also for its policy. In the wake of a 3-2 vote by the state’s Marijuana Control Board, the nation’s largest state is poised to become the first to allow cannabis consumers to toke up at the place where they purchase pot.

The vote by the board did not change the wording of Alaska’s legalization initiative, which bans consumption “in public,” but rather changed the definition of “public” to exclude licensed retail shops. The statewide move comes in the wake of a pioneering vote by Anchorage to allow hash bars to operate within its city limits.

This bold move lets Alaska leapfrog ahead of Colorado and Washington, where adults may legally buy marijuana but have nowhere to consume it outside of private residences. Both states allow out-of-state tourists to buy cannabis, but with public consumption banned and most hotels levying hefty cleaning fees for smoking in their rooms, most tourists are left in a Catch-22 wherein they have legal places to buy cannabis but nowhere to consume it.

Besides the resolution of logical inconsistencies, the move is also important for public health reasons. In the US, most adults have few options for social gathering spaces other than alcohol bars, and few options to get home by public transit. While driving while stoned is not entirely safe (and especially for new users), the use of cannabis poses far fewer threats to public safety than the use of alcohol, and most alarmist warnings about driving under the influence of cannabis have been exaggerated. In fact, access to legal marijuana may actually improve roadway safety. For anyone (like this author) who has lost friends to drunk drivers, the move by Alaska regulators to even slightly equalize the playing field between alcohol and marijuana comes as a most welcome development.

The latest initiative filed by ReformCA to legalize cannabis in California would also allow licensed hash bars for adults. Let’s hope that the brave move in Alaska is the beginning of a national trend.

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