As of Tuesday you can smoke a joint in Juneau, fire up in Fairbanks, or get blazed on the Bering Strait without running afoul of the law.
But that doesn’t mean you can have a doobie in Denali or meet Mary Jane up on Mount McKinley — because there’s also a new smoking ban in effect in public places, such as state and national parks.
Alaska’s status as the third state to make marijuana legal for all adults was sealed last November, when 52% of voters decided to back legalization. That ballot initiative required pot to be legal 90 days after the results were certified — in other words, Feb. 24.
Colorado and Washington state were the first to legalize in 2013, thanks to successful ballot initiatives in 2012. Oregon also voted to legalize marijuana on its November 2014 ballot, but that won’t kick in until July 1.
Alaska’s relationship with weed has been a complicated one. The Last Frontier likes to see itself as a libertarian paradise, with a cherished right to privacy that has long been deemed to include pot consumption; indeed, the state Supreme Court decriminalized weed smoking in the home in 1975. Alaska voted for medical marijuana in 1998, only a few years after California started the trend.
But Alaska lawmakers criminalized pot possession after both of those cases, leaving the state’s stoners in a strange legal limbo.
The 2014 ballot initiative, which asked voters to let marijuana be regulated like alcohol, sorted out that confusion. But it also introduced a new round of confusion: namely, what the public smoking ban means — “in public” is a very general phrase that isn’t elaborated on — and how to enforce it.
Up near the north pole, law enforcement is pretty chill: you’re good to toke up outside on private property. But in Anchorage, where nearly half the state’s population lives, local police have warned folks not to smoke outside on their property if it borders a park.
And then there’s the whole sticky question of how to buy the stuff. Technically, pot shops won’t be allowed in Alaska until May 2016, according to the new law. How do you get it before then? Either get some green thumbs (the law allows six plants per person) or find a bud with some (the law allows you to give pot away without penalty).
None of that will stop Charlo Green, the former TV reporter whose dramatic on-air resignation — “fuck it, I quit” — went viral before the election last year.
Green revealed herself as the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club during that infamous report, the last of many she’d done on the battle for marijuana legalization.
That store is planning a “grand opening” in Anchorage on Tuesday, where Green says she’ll give away weed to medical marijuana patients and “other members.” She also says she’s planning a celebratory toke at 4:20 p.m.
Let’s just hope she’s nowhere near a public space at the time.