Alaska was the first state in North America to legalise recreational cannabis. However, heavy restrictions remain in place regarding the sale, consumption and cultivation of cannabis state-wide.
Fronting the charge for pot policy reform for the entire United States, Alaska was the first state to officially legalise recreational cannabis. As a result, the country immediately became a target for cannabis tourists from across the US and beyond. Not to mention, entrepreneurs looking to make their mark on the fledging legal cannabis industry at ground-level.
The legalization of recreational cannabis in Alaska took place following a successful ballot initiative in 2014. Prior to this, cannabis in Alaska was actually decriminalized all the way back in 1975 - subsequently legalized one week later by the Alaska Supreme Court. However, cannabis in Alaska was once again recriminalized in 1990, only to be decriminalized once again in 2003 and criminalized yet again in 2006.
Alaska has endured one of the most frustrating and confusing journeys to all-out cannabis legalization. Nevertheless, the latest 2014 ruling brought about some of the most relaxed recreational cannabis laws in the whole of the United States.
Who Can Buy and Use Cannabis in Alaska?
Cannabis policy in Alaska allows anyone aged at least 21 to purchase and have on their person a maximum of 1oz of cannabis at any one time. It is also permitted to give or receive up to 1oz of cannabis for free as a gift. However, it is prohibited to sell cannabis or cannabis-related products of any kind, without an official state licence.
How Much Cannabis Can You Grow at Home in Alaska?
Adults aged 21 years or older are permitted to grow a maximum of six cannabis plants on their property. It’s also permitted by law to give or receive up to six cannabis plants free of charge as a gift. However, current legislation states that a maximum of three of the six plants can be flowering at the time. If more than three of the six plants being grown are in the flowering stage at the same time, the grower and/or owner of the property may be prosecuted.
What About Workplace Cannabis Policies in Alaska?
For the time being, employers across the United States in general are free to impose their own cannabis policies. This means that random and/or scheduled drug tests may be carried out by employers, who are subsequently entitled to act as they see fit. Many employers continue to terminate contracts or penalize employees for using cannabis outside the office. If you work (or plan on working) in Alaska, check the policy of your employer to know where you stand.
Where Can I Buy Cannabis in Alaska?
Recreational cannabis stores are now in business across most major Alaskan communities. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority are located in the state’s busiest towns and cities.
If you plan on purchasing cannabis from a registered store in Alaska, you will need to bring a current and valid form of ID. Irrespective of how old you look, you can expect your ID to be heavily scrutinised - as is a legal requirement in Alaska. Every cannabis shop has its own unique policies and general business model, but you’ll always find an extensive range of products to choose from. With Alaska being the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, they’ve had several years to create a diverse market for weird and wonderful cannabis-based products.
One important note to remember - it’s still rare to find a cannabis shop in Alaska (or anywhere else) that accepts card payments of any kind. Some shops provide access to cash machines, but it’s nonetheless better to take as much cash as you need with you. Expect to pay anything from $10 to $20 per gram for cannabis flowers.
If you’re asked to provide your name, contact details, and other information at the time of purchase, it’s not for state tracking purposes. There are no formal customer tracking systems in place in Alaska at the moment - simple store-specific programs for marketing and promotional purposes.
What Are the Cannabis Driving Laws in Alaska?
In terms of transportations, there are no specific state laws that specify how cannabis should be transported in a vehicle. Anchorage has its own specific transportation policy, which states that cannabis must be transported in the trunk of a vehicle, or in the last row of seats if there’s no trunk available. It should also be in a sealed container that hasn’t been opened.
As for driving under the influence of cannabis, state law follows largely the same principles as those for alcohol-related DUIs. Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department are trained to carry out on-the-spot sobriety tests, which may be followed by more formal drug testing if impairment is suspected. Heavy penalties are payable for driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance in Alaska.
Can I Transport Cannabis in Alaska by Plane or Boat?
In accordance with United States Federal law, it is illegal to transport cannabis by air without the appropriate authorization, it remains illegal at a Federal level, therefore represents a risk that is not worth taking.
The same also applies to Alaska’s ferry system and cruise ships, which again fall under Federal cannabis policy. Hence, you risk having your cannabis confiscated and/or facing prosecution if caught in possession of pot while in transit.
Can I Smoke Cannabis in Public in Alaska?
As is the case across the United States in general, public consumption of cannabis is forbidden. As a general rule of thumb, anywhere that isn’t considered private property is somewhere you shouldn’t be consuming cannabis. If caught doing so, you face an immediate fine of $100.
However, Alaska has become the first North American State to take an active approach to address the issue of where cannabis can be legally consumed. A new policy introduced by the state’s Marijuana Control Board in April 2019 permitted cannabis stores to set up their own on-site consumption areas. These on-site spaces constitute private property, thereby allowing customers to legally consume cannabis on their promises.
In addition, hotel rooms across Alaska are considered private property. It is therefore up to the proprietor to determine whether or not cannabis can be consumed in an establishment’s hotel rooms. The same also applies to Airbnb property letters and landlords in general.
Can I Consume Cannabis in Alaska’s National Parks?
The joy of getting baked in the great outdoors really can be something else. Home to more than 54 million acres of national parks and nature reserves, Alaska boasts one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, the consumption and even the possession of cannabis in these public spaces is prohibited.
Official records suggest that only five citations were issued in the whole of 2018. Nevertheless, it’s still against the law to carry or consume cannabis in any public places in Alaska, so it’s best not to take the risk.
What About Medical Marijuana in Alaska?
The medical cannabis situation in Alaska is somewhat unique. Medical marijuana was officially legalized state-wide in 1998, but the policy introduced didn’t make allowances for dispensaries to be opened. When recreational cannabis was legalized in 2014, lawmakers decided not to create separate cannabis systems for recreational or medicinal marijuana. This was due to widespread concern that the regular commercial cannabis market would be undercut by the lower prices of medical cannabis.
As such, the medical marijuana picture in Alaska remains something of a grey area. You can obtain and use a medical cannabis card, but it generally won’t bring you any benefits. Cannabis stores are technically permitted to offer discounts and special deals for medical marijuana permit holders, but it’s rare to find any such discounts available. What’s more, it is against the law for a recreational cannabis store to provide any kind of medical advice on the purchase or consumption of cannabis. In essence, therefore, a dedicated medical cannabis industry in Alaska doesn’t yet exist.
Are There Any Cannabis Clubs or Delivery Services in Alaska?
Unfortunately, ordering a (legal) cannabis delivery in Alaska is out of the question. State law doesn’t permit cannabis to be delivered - it must be purchased exclusively from an authorized service. Alaska also lacks cannabis clubs in the traditional sense, though the creation of on-site consumption spaces in authorized cannabis shops could be a game-changer. Introduced in April 2019, the new legislation allows cannabis store owners to create dedicated spaces on their premises for the consumption of cannabis. Some of which are likely to be open to the general public, other by way of membership or invitation only.