Marijuana is stocked on the shelves of Herbal Outfitters in Valdez on Oct. 29, 2016. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)
Summer is here, and that means tourists are descending on the state in search of mountain viewing, whale sightings and, sometimes, marijuana. This summer marks the state’s first tourist season with marijuana shops up and running. For travelers heading to Alaska, here’s what to expect, do and avoid.
What you can do
Anyone 21 years or older can buy and carry up to an ounce of marijuana. You can give and receive up to an ounce for free.
But the state still has some places where marijuana is not allowed like national parks and some private property.
The lowdown on retail shops
Marijuana stores have opened in many Alaska communities, from Fairbanks to Sitka. Bring your ID, because Alaska law requires businesses to check it. Each shop is a little different, but marijuana will be behind the counter and a budtender will help you pick out what you want. You can smell and look at the product but not touch it.
Most shops have their current menus online prices for grams tend to hover around $20. It’s cash only. Some stores have ATMs. Budtenders like tips. The state doesn’t track customer information, but some shops are asking for names and other information for their in-house point of sale system.
Michael Holcomb smells a jar of marijuana held by Herbal Outfitters general manager Derek Morris in Valdez on .Oct. 29, 2016. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)
Marijuana and driving
No state laws say you have to transport marijuana in a certain way in your vehicle. In Anchorage, you are supposed to carry marijuana in the trunk of your car. If your car has no trunk (like a hatchback), it needs to be behind the last row of seats. It’s supposed to be in a sealed container that hasn’t been opened, under Anchorage law.
If you get stoned and drive, you could get a DUI. Law enforcement goes by standard field sobriety tests to decide whether a person is considered impaired, both the Alaska State Troopers and Anchorage Police Department said.
Traveling by plane
Under federal law, pilots who knowingly carry marijuana on a flight risk losing their certification. Alaska Airlines is clear that marijuana is not allowed on board, in carry-on or checked luggage. A number of smaller airlines have a similar policy. But for months, airport police have been letting small amounts of marijuana through security checkpoints in Anchorage and Fairbanks. (Transportation Security Administration employees call police, who then allow travelers to continue through the checkpoint with cannabis.)
The Juneau Police Department is taking a hands-off approach, leaving it up to the discretion of TSA. They won’t confiscate your marijuana, JPD Lt. David Campbell said, but TSA may require you to leave it behind. So if you fly with marijuana, local police may not stop you but you’re still taking a risk.
The Coral Princess cruise ship in Skagway Aug. 23, 2015 (Anne Raup / Alaska Dispatch News)
Alaska ferry system and cruise ships
The U.S. Coast Guard is the law enforcement entity on federal waterways, including those traversed by Alaska’s ferries and cruise lines.
“It’s illegal federally and we try to inform the public of that,” said Brian Dykens, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Alaska. “I can’t tell you what we would do or not do if we come across drugs.”
But the Alaska Marine Highway System, including popular Southeast ferry routes, isn’t actively seeking out people who are carrying marijuana, according to Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Usually, if crew members discover someone with less than an ounce of marijuana, the person is told to put it away, McCarthy wrote. More than 1 ounce would be reported to law enforcement. For Holland America cruises, ships comply with federal law and don’t allow marijuana on board, said Ralph Samuels, vice president of government and community relations at cruise ship operator Holland America Group.
Holland America notifies people of what’s not allowed on the ship after they book a cruise, Samuels said. And marijuana shops in Juneau are required to have signage telling customers they aren’t allowed to take the product onto a ship or plane.
Public consumption isn’t allowed under Alaska law. You can be fined up to $100 if police bust you. Like in other states, tourists face a conundrum: If you can’t smoke in public, but don’t have a home to return to, where can you legally smoke pot? So far, there’s no good answer. The state has long discussed allowing public areas where marijuana consumption is legal, but development of those rules is still a ways out.
The public consumption fine is a citation akin to a traffic ticket and not a criminal charge. In Anchorage, six citations had been issued between January and the end of March, according to Anchorage police.
Hotel rooms are considered private property and local rules in any given city would determine what’s allowed, said Erika McConnell, director of the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.
Many hotels have no-smoking policies. At the Westmark Baranof hotel in Juneau, general manager Steve Hamilton said that smoking marijuana in the hotel rooms would be off-limits, just like tobacco. For edibles, Hamilton said he had no way of knowing when those are brought in, and “we don’t try to be the police.”
Your best bet is to ask your AirBnB host or a staff member at your hotel or other lodging.
Denali National Park on May 13 (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)
Alaska is home to 54 million acres of federal parks and preserves. But carrying and using marijuana on these massive swaths of federal land is not allowed. If you’re caught with marijuana you could face a federal citation, which is typically a misdemeanor, according to John Quinley, National Park Service spokesman.
So far, those citations have been sparse. In the past 2 1/2 years, there have been two citations and one verbal warning to people for using marijuana, Quinley wrote. Two were in Denali National Park and Preserve and one was in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
If you have a medical card, it won’t go far at most marijuana shops. Alaska was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 but its rules don’t allow for dispensaries. In 2014, when voters legalized recreational marijuana, a separate medical system was not developed, to the chagrin of some medical users. Regulators feared that if a dual system were created, medical prices and rules would undercut the regular commercial market.
A few marijuana delivery services operate in Alaska, but not with the state’s blessing. Alaska’s laws don’t allow for marijuana delivery, and two delivery services’ owners are facing criminal charges. Rules around marijuana clubs are still being considered by the Marijuana Control Board. In Anchorage, one club owner faces criminal charges and a second shut down in April.
Reporter Annie Zak contributed to this article.
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A security guard at a North Las Vegas 7-Eleven shot and killed a man who walked in with a gun and started firing. It happened about 5 Monday morning at the store at Lake Mead Boulevard and Pecos Road. Police say they do not believe the motive was robbery but have not et elaborated. Officers arrived and the gunman was suffering from gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead soon after.
Police are looking into whether the man – whose name has not been released – was involved in a fight at the 7-Eleven.
Image via ShutterStock
CITY HALL The simmering fight over whether Aviation Security Officers should be stripped of the right to call themselves police boiled over Monday as several members of the City Council’s Aviation Committee objected to Commissioner Ginger Evans‘ plan to rebrand the force. Under aggressive questioning from Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and other aldermen, Evans said the fracas that erupted April 9 after officers dragged a Louisville doctor off a United Airlines flight seriously injuring him showed the need to clarify the official duties of Aviation Security Officers.
“There are very serious legal risks for the city to call people police that are not police,” Evans said, adding that most large, international airports have two complimentary law enforcement agencies one sworn, armed force and another charged with monitoring entrances and exits to the airport. “Both have enormous value.”
However, several aldermen said Evans’ plan which the commissioner said she ordered four days after Dr. David Dao’s nose was broken, two of his front teeth were lost, and he suffered a concussion during the incident would leave passengers at O’Hare and Midway airports at risk.
Evans told aldermen that the word “police” will be removed from aviation security officers’ uniforms within in five months and pledged to consult with the unions that represent the 292 aviation security officers who cost the city $19 million annually.
“We are going to change the word police,” Evans said. “We can not have that lack of clarity.”
John Jimmerson, who has been an Aviation Security Officer for 30 years, told the committee that Evans’ move left him feeling “disrespected and humiliated.” Dozens of officers attended the committee meeting.
“We are sworn officers,” Jimmerson said. “I love this job, but it has been tarnished.”
Matt Brandon, who represents several dozen Aviation Security sergeants, said he believed Evans was laying the ground work to fire the existing officers and replace them with “security guards that are paid $15 an hour.”
The Service Employee International Union, which represents the officers, filed an objection to the removal of the term police from their vehicles and uniforms. That objection is pending before state labor officials. Evans approved of the committee’s plan to ban Aviation Security Officers from boarding a plane unless there was an “immediate threat.”
That matches the Aviation Department’s current policy and will help prevent another “completely unacceptable” incident like the one involving Dao from occurring again, Evans said.
The full council will consider the measure Wednesday. Three Aviation security officers have been suspended with pay in connection with their role in this incident. Inspector General Joseph Ferguson is conducting an “expedited disciplinary review,” Evans said. Burke also pointedly questioned Evans about the hiring of Jeffrey Redding, whom Evans tapped to lead the Aviation Security Officers. Evans told Burje she fired Redding from his $118,020-a-year position April 27 for failing to reveal important information during the hiring process.
The Tribune reported April 21 that Redding was fired by the Illinois Tollway after officials received complaints that he sought sex and money in exchange for work-related favors. Burke called Redding a “sexual predator” and pressed Evans on whether she had checked his references before hiring him. Evans said she had obtained a copy of Redding’s personnel record from tollway officials and obtained references. Several aldermen were also critical of Evans’ announcement that she planned to hire the Israeli Airport Authority a firm owned by the Israeli government to conduct an assessment of security at O’Hare and Midway airports in an effort to prevent a terrorist attack like the one against the Brussels airport when suicide bombers attacked a departure hall.
The Israeli Airport Authority will be paid $245,000 to examine the airport’s technology and protocols as well as the curbside areas, baggage check-in and baggage claims. Evans said she approved the contract on Friday, but said she would hold off on finalizing the contract at the request Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) until the firm discloses some economic information. The firm which could complete the first phase of their work by August could be paid an additional $550,000 for a second phase of work, Evans said.
No American firm has the expertise needed to complete the work, Evans said. While Dowell said she was troubled that a foreign firm was going to complete this work, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said he was pleased the Israeli government would recommend ways to make Chicago’s airport’s safer, calling the country the “Michael Jordan of airport security.”
“We are a target,” Villegas said. After the meeting, Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) said the future of the Aviation Security Officers was “up in the air.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” Zalewski said.
- ^ Dozens of Aviation Security Officers asked aldermen to roll back a plan to strip them of the authority to call themselves police. (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Aviation Security Officers (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Ginger Evans (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Edward Burke (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ dragged a Louisville doctor off a United Airlines flight (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ O’Hare (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Midway (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Nicolas Sposato (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ suspended with pay (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Tribune (www.chicagotribune.com)
- ^ Pat Dowell (www.dnainfo.com)
- ^ Gilbert Villegas (www.dnainfo.com)