Marijuana

By Erin McGroarty

emcgroarty@newsminer.com

Alaska was the third state after Washington and Colorado to legalize marijuana, and for those traveling to Alaska from any of the 40 remaining states where cannabis is still illegal, the concept of state-condoned cannabis consumption can be exciting. Here are some tips to ensure that your THC tourism can be as safe and enjoyable as possible:

Consumption and regulations

Alaska law prohibits purchase, possession or consumption of cannabis by any person under the age of 21. But for those lucky 21 and over individuals, it’s still a good idea to know the state’s laws. Adults are allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana at a time. Alaska state law prohibits the use of marijuana in any public place, which includes businesses, parks, sidewalks and public accommodations. Most hotels and rentals prohibit marijuana use, so be sure to check beforehand.

Alaska recently became the first state in the nation to legalize onsite consumption of legal marijuana. So, if you are visiting a cannabis retailer, be sure to ask if onsite consumption is allowed and what rules they have.

Marijuana is still federally prohibited, meaning it remains illegal to consume cannabis on federal lands, including national parks and preserves like the ever-popular Denali National Park, for example.

Travel

If you are traveling by vehicle, adults are allowed to travel with up to 1 ounce of cannabis, but most states require cannabis to be in a sealed container and inaccessible to the driver. Marijuana paraphernalia such as pipes or bongs are allowed in the car, but the use of cannabis while operating a motor vehicle, including boats and ATVs, is prohibited as is driving under the influence of cannabis.

If traveling by air, it can get a little more complicated. Traveling between states with marijuana, even if below 1 ounce, is prohibited as the substance is still illegal under federal law. However, traveling within Alaska with a legal amount of cannabis has become somewhat allowable as federal law is primarily focused on prohibiting drug trafficking and underage use. But specific rules should still be followed.

“Generally, whether travelers are Alaska residents or tourists, as long as they’re following Alaska state law and carrying under allowable limits, they should be OK,” said Fairbanks International Airport Police Chief Aaron Danielson.

Danielson noted that specific airlines may balk at the idea of transporting marijuana, so it is a good idea for travelers to check with airlines ahead of time.

“TSA may flag it if they find it because it is an illegal substance under federal law,” Danielson said. “But we do have state officers who come in and verify that no state laws are being broken, and then travelers are allowed to continue. From our perspective, we don’t really enforce federal laws in that nature.”

However, due to possible Transportation Security Administration and law enforcement checks, if you are traveling within Alaska with marijuana, it is a good idea to get to the airport with plenty of time so as to avoid missing your flight if you’re held up at security while police verify the legality of your cannabis.

In addition to following those rules, if you do decide to fly with a small amount of legal marijuana, be sure to travel with it in a sealed container so as to diminish any smell that may disturb other travelers.

Marijuana is not allowed in any form on the ferry system or cruise ships, so that means no traveling with your stash between coastal communities.

Shopping

Since legalization, marijuana retail shops have popped up in communities across the state, including at least a dozen in the Fairbanks area.

These retailers can help you procure the best cannabis experience, from helping you find a strain that you like to giving you tips on consumption based on the type of high you are looking for.

Remember to bring your ID, as retailers are required by law to check it prior to purchase. In most shops, cannabis and cannabis products such as edibles are stored behind the counter.

A retail worker can help you choose which product you are interested in and will allow you to look at and smell the product, but you are not allowed to touch it until after purchase.

Retailers can also help you figure out what strain you might be interested in. Different strains provide different effects and highs depending on THC levels and whether the strain is a more calming indica or a more energizing sativa.

Currently all shops operate on a cash-only basis so be sure to hit an ATM before going shopping. Some stores do have an ATM inside, however, so you might want to call and ask.

Weedmaps is a recently developed app to help consumers find marijuana retailers in their area. A list of Fairbanks retailers can also be found at www.potguide.com/alaska/

If you or anyone you’re traveling with has additional questions, the best source of information is the experts themselves. Feel free to wander into a retail shop and ask one of the friendly workers about laws and regulations.

Most shops also have helpful brochures outlining state laws and providing information on responsible consumption.