Senate approves federal check bill for marijuana licenses

The Senate approved a bill on April 22 that would allow the state to request federal background checks for marijuana license applicants.

The bill’s main focus revises alcohol regulations to streamline enforcement, a measure in review since 2012.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, also changes statutory language to allow the Department of Public Safety to request federal background checks for commercial marijuana license applicants.

Marijuana Control Board director Cynthia Franklin has held current marijuana license applications, saying the federal background checks are necessary to comply with statute, which forbids a marijuana license to anyone with a felony conviction in the last five years. 

The bill will now move to a vote in the House. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a House hearing. The House will next reconvene at 2 pm, April 23.

The original request for federal checks was in House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla. HB 75, however, has foundered in conference committee after the Senate and House could not agree on other bill provisions concerning unorganized borough commercial marijuana.

During the last week, in which the Legislature is in overtime past its 90 day mark, a conference committee on HB 75 has cancelled hearings for the bill four times.

The sticking point concerns rural Alaska villages.

The Senate bill would automatically opt unorganized borough villages out of commercial marijuana, as opposed to the rest of the state where statute makes commercial marijuana legal unless localities opt out. Village elders would have their own discussions about whether or not to allow marijuana businesses and decide whether or not to allow them.

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

04/22/2016 - 12:10pm