ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The Alaska marijuana industry is calling for cannabis transportation restrictions to be loosened and for curbside pickups to be allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea behind four proposals put to state marijuana regulators is to reduce person-to-person contact and better allow for social distancing during marijuana sales.
The Marijuana Control Board worked on an emergency regulation package during a meeting Friday afternoon and a vote is expected in a meeting next Wednesday.
The marijuana industry is looking for some changes to how sales can be made.
Kacy Wilcox, the president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, says that curbside pickups would allow customers to buy marijuana without going inside stores. The idea is that budtenders could go out to customers parked outside after an order is made by phone.
The proposal was opposed by James Hoelscher, the top enforcement officer at the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. His concern was how retailers could tell if minors were in the car or if a customer was intoxicated.
“I’m thinking of the safety of the people buying marijuana and the licensees selling marijuana,” Hoelscher said.
Advocates say smaller marijuana businesses would be the biggest beneficiaries of the temporary change. Wilcox says some smaller stores have closed their doors during the pandemic as they can’t fulfill social distancing requirements.
The board is preparing to finalize the package and says the governor and lieutenant governor would need to sign-off on the proposal. The governor is said to be looking closely into the idea of curbside pickups.
The marijuana industry is not currently calling for home deliveries of cannabis in Alaska. The concern is for how tough it would be for regulators to implement the change and allow for safe and legal deliveries.
“Boy, that’s a lot to digest,” Wilcox said.
Some states across the country have moved to allow home deliveries of cannabis or seen a huge bump in delivery sales. Nevada recently required that marijuana businesses close their doors and only deliver cannabis to homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alaska marijuana industry is also calling for changes to how marijuana is transported during the pandemic.
One proposal would allow for smoother handoffs of marijuana, particularly in rural Alaska. The measure would allow handoffs to be made at the airport, eliminating the need for a shipper to go into a community.
A person could also carry marijuana for multiple retailers, cutting down on how many deliveries need to be made.
Another request is that overnight marijuana storage rules be temporarily suspended. Under current Alaska regulations, there are strict rules governing what happens if a person is shipping marijuana inside Alaska and can’t make the delivery in a single day.
Currently, regulations require that the shipper has to bring the cannabis to a friendly retailer to have it stored overnight and pick it up the next day before they continue on their trip. Allowing a shipper to keep the marijuana in a hotel overnight would remove two in-person visits to cannabis stores.
Lt. Christopher Jaime, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper from Soldotna, opposed the idea of changing the regulation, saying it wouldn’t impact person-to-person contacts. “It becomes a public safety issue, I don’t feel a need for this change,” he said.
The Marijuana Control Board plans to finalize its emergency regulation package next Wednesday to send to the governor’s office.
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