LeDoux shelves House, Senate bills that would ban smoking statewide

Operators of marijuana clubs had reason to celebrate the unofficial national pot smoking holiday of April 20. A bill that would have banned smoking statewide in workplaces and other enclosed spaces won’t pass this year, and a version of the bill to be introduced in the next legislative session will leave marijuana consumption out.

Both Senate Bill 1 and its House companion, House Bill 328 would have replaced Alaska’s current local control system with a statewide prohibition.

Both bill’s definitions included any “plant intended for inhalation,” and would have applied to vaporization in addition to actual smoking.

The bill also defined what constitutes a “public place” in a manner that would have included marijuana social clubs, which currently operate as neither a prohibited nor an authorized type of business. It would have also prohibited onsite consumption at retail marijuana cafes that was allowed by the Marijuana Control Board in its final version of license regulations approved last fall.

HB 328 will not make it out of the House Judiciary Committee. The committee chaired by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, will not hold any more meetings for the rest of the legislative session, which is already running past its 90-day mark and into the 121 days allowed by Alaska statute.

The Senate version also failed to pass after being added to a bill being advanced by LeDoux.

LeDoux’s originally simple bill added one member to the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers in House Bill 289. The Senate Finance Committee stacked a controversial optometry bill and the Senate’s smoking bill onto it in the end of session chaos, however, and LeDoux withdrew the bill.

 “That wasn’t intended to go through,” said SB 1 sponsor Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, in a phone interview. “It was just a good example of the kind of silliness that goes on in this building.”

The final version of the bill, which will be introduced again in next year’s session, has amended language that would not apply to marijuana cafes or social clubs as well as vape shops, he said.

“It certainly wasn’t our intention to get in the way of the Marijuana Control Board and their work,” said Micciche.

Micciche introduced the bill, which would prohibit tobacco or e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces including places of employment, apartment buildings, hotels, and at schools and universities. It grants certain exceptions to tobacco stores where 90 percent of revenue comes from tobacco sales, but includes no language to exempt marijuana retail stores with the same sales configuration.

The original bill was at odds with state marijuana regulations, which explicitly grant onsite marijuana consumption to retail stores if the Marijuana Control Board approves the request.

The bill would also have outlawed the existing marijuana social clubs, which offer cannabis users a place to consume but in which no marijuana is sold. Onsite consumption provisions for retail stores are explicitly legal, but marijuana social clubs are in limbo.

The Marijuana Control Board does not endorse social clubs, but has acknowledged it lacks the authority to allow them or prohibit them until the Legislature creates a license type for that business.

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected].

04/20/2016 - 4:14pm