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Alaska and Cannabis. What You Should Know

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When it comes to medical marijuana usage in Alaska, it’s important to understand the guidelines that have been put in place by the local administration. Knowing what is legal and what isn’t is vital to navigating enjoyable cannabis experiences successfully.

With different requirements for different groups of people, it’s more essential than ever to know what the guidelines are for the citizens of Alaska, as well as anyone who is considering visiting the state.

An Overview of Marijuana Laws in Alaska

Alaska has a long history with cannabis and has long been at the forefront of marijuana laws and legislation. In 1998, Alaska became the first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana, allowing qualified patients to possess up to one ounce of usable cannabis for therapeutic use. In 2014, Alaska legalized recreational marijuana, allowing adults 21 years or older to possess up to one ounce of usable cannabis for personal use.

Medical cannabis in Alaska is regulated by the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and administered by the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention (OSAP). Under the Alaska Medical Marijuana Program (AMMP), qualified patients must register with DHSS in order to be issued an identification card that will allow them access to medical dispensaries within their state. Qualified conditions under AMMP include cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and more. Patients may possess up to one ounce of usable product on their person when travelling within the state and may cultivate up to six mature plants at home without any additional registration requirements.

Recreational cannabis in Alaska is regulated by The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) and administered by the Marijuana Control Board (MCB). Under recreational cannabis regulations, adults 21 years or older are allowed to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana flower or 8 grams of concentrate from licensed retailers within their state. Adults may also cultivate up to 6 mature plants per household for personal use without any additional registration requirements. It should be noted that public consumption is illegal in both medical and recreational contexts.

Overall, Alaskan citizens seeking access to cannabis can pursue both medical and recreational licenses according to their needs with laws designed specifically for each type of program throughout the state.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Alaska?

Yes, medical cannabis is legal in the state of Alaska for those with qualifying medical conditions. In fact, Alaska signed its medical marijuana bill into law back in 1998, making them one of the first four states to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

Those who hold a medical marijuana card in Alaska are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana at one time. In order to qualify for a medical card, an Alaskan citizen must be professionally diagnosed with at least one of the following conditions:

You may notice that the list of qualifying conditions in Alaska is shorter than in many other states. This may seem like a negative at first glance, but upon further inspection, it becomes clear why there hasn’t been much push to widen the list of conditions.

Is Recreational Marijuana Legal in Alaska?

Marijuana was made legal in Alaska in 2015 when voters enacted the law through Ballot Measure 2 in February of that year. This marijuana law made it legal for any adult 21 or older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. However, it is still illegal for anyone under 21 to possess it. It’s also illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.

There are some other restrictions to keep in mind as well. It’s only legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Also, you can only consume marijuana in private locations, never in public. If you’re traveling, you will want to check with your hotel or vacation rental property owner to determine if they allow marijuana use on their property, as it’s based on the owner’s discretion.

How to Get Medical Marijuana Card in Alaska

If an Alaskan resident wishes to obtain a medical marijuana card, they would need to fill out the application offered by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. However, before sending in the application, the patient must first get a referral from their physician.

Once the application is sent in, it takes about five weeks to receive the MMJ card in the mail. If the application is denied, the person can’t apply again for six months. Because of this waiting period, it’s incredibly important to double-check that all information has been filled out completely and correctly before sending in the application. 

Medical marijuana cards in Alaska are valid for one year. In order to renew the card, the patient must have their physician sign off on the referral annually, even if nothing about the patient’s condition has changed. The application fee is $25, and it’s $20 to renew the medical card annually.

It’s important to note that anyone under 18 who wishes to obtain a medical marijuana card in Alaska will need to designate a caregiver who will handle the medical card on the patient’s behalf. Caregivers must have no drug-related convictions on their record or be on parole at the time of the application.

Benefits of Getting an Alaska Medical Card

With recreational use of cannabis being legal in Alaska, you may be wondering why those who qualify should go through the process of getting a medical card.

One of the benefits of being a cardholder is age-specific. If you’re under 21 but have a qualifying medical condition, you are able to apply to get a medical card, including through a designated caregiver if you’re under 18, meaning the legal age for recreational consumption isn’t something you would have to worry about.

Another benefit of holding a medical card in Alaska is that you will pay less for your marijuana. This savings is because medical patients pay less in taxes on every medical marijuana purchase.

Being a cardholder also gives you access to medical marijuana dispensaries. These dispensaries are available only to those who hold a card and tend to employ people who will be able to help you determine the right marijuana product to help your specific ailments, which could make for a better experience overall.

A final benefit is the fact that some states accept medical marijuana cards from out of state. So, even if you don’t use your card at home, if you travel to a state that offers out-of-state reciprocity often, it would be worth it to be a cardholder. The states that accept Alaska’s MMJ cards include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Washington D.C. In addition, Arizona, Missouri, and New Hampshire allow possession only for out-of-state cardholders.

Alaska Medical Card Requirements

In order to get a medical card in Alaska, there are certain requirements that must be met. The first step is having a diagnosis of a qualifying medical condition by a physician who has seen you in the office within the last 16 months.

From there, you will take the recommendation from your doctor and present it to the Medical Marijuana Registry department, which will allow you to begin the application process.

When it comes to renewals, all medical patients must have an annual medical evaluation to determine their eligibility for the program. In addition, patients will have to present an updated proof of residency and their valid government-issued photo ID.

Can You Grow Marijuana in Alaska?

Adults over the age of 21 are allowed to grow their own marijuana, regardless of if it’s for medical or recreational use. The current guidelines limit the number of plants that are allowed to up to 12 if a home has at least two adults over the age of 21. For homes that have only one adult over the age of 21, the limit is six plants. It’s also important to note that only half of the plants may be flowering at one time.

Growing your own marijuana is only legal if you are doing it for personal use. It’s not legal to grow marijuana with the intent of selling it. All plants must be in a location that isn’t visible to the public unless using an instrument such as binoculars or an aircraft. It’s also vital that plants are kept out of the reach of anyone under the age of 21.

Also, make sure you are only growing your cannabis plants on your property. If you are renting your residence, it’s important to talk to your landlord or property manager to see if they are okay with marijuana being grown on their property.

Marijuana Dispensaries in Alaska

Marijuana dispensaries are located throughout the state of Alaska for both medical and recreational purposes. In order to open a dispensary in Alaska, a license will need to be received through the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (AMCO). Before applying for a license, the land for the proposed business must be secured.

The application to open a dispensary includes a fee of $1,000, which must be turned in at the time of the application. If you want to open a retail store, the fee is $5,000. Once this application is turned in, the review process begins. There are a variety of other forms that will be needed throughout the process. You will also need to follow the proper steps to notify the public in the area of the proposed dispensary, as well as the local government.

Once the application is deemed complete, there will be a 60-day waiting period that allows anyone who is against the proposed business to voice their concerns. During that time, AMCO will review the application at a board meeting. If the application is approved, AMCO will inspect the proposed property and, if deemed acceptable, present the applicant with a license.

Alaska Medical License Reciprocity

Alaska does not currently offer medical license reciprocity for out-of-state cardholders who are visiting. While this may be discouraging news, it’s important to consider the fact that those who are visiting from out of state are allowed to legally visit cannabis stores, buy, carry, and consume cannabis under the same laws that Alaskan citizens are under.

If you’re coming from out of state, make sure you have your government-issued photo ID to confirm that you are 21 or older. Also, remember that marijuana is not allowed on planes. Alaska Airlines is very clear that they do not allow marijuana on their planes for any reason and others have similar stances.

Takeaway

Alaska was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational usage. Anyone 21 or older is allowed to consume marijuana in a variety of forms, but it’s still vital to understand the limits and other laws that are in place. These limits and restrictions exist to keep both people who are using marijuana and those who aren’t safe throughout the state of Alaska, so it’s important to do your part in making that happen when in Alaska.

Frequently
Asked Questions

Yes! Medical cannabis use in Alaska has been legalized since 1998, making it one of the first states in the US to follow California’s medical cannabis laws.

Adult-use cannabis, or recreational cannabis, is also legal in Alaska. The state legalized this form of cannabis use in 2014 and has been thriving since.

Both medical patients and recreational consumers will purchase their cannabis at licensed dispensaries throughout the state. Shops are not exclusive to medical patients nor are they exclusive to recreational shoppers; they all operate the same.

You must enjoy your cannabis products privately, as public consumption is against the law. This means that private residences or establishments that have a valid onsite consumption endorsement are the only places you can legally consume your cannabis products. 

Cannabis consumers in Alaska are allowed to possess up to one ounce of flower and concentrates. When transporting your products from the dispensary to your home, make sure they are kept in their sealed containers and in the trunk of your vehicle to prevent any hassle.

Yes! In Alaska, you are allowed to cultivate up to six immature plants and three flowering plants. In a single-family home, you can legally grow up to 12 cannabis plants, with up to six being flowering buds. 

 

Regardless, none of these plants or cultivation stations can be in the view of the public eye by any means.

Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services oversees the medical marijuana registry in the state. They’re in charge of all information pertaining to patients, patient eligibility, and caregivers.

To qualify for a medical card in Alaska, you must be diagnosed with at least one of their qualifying health conditions, be a resident of Alaska, and have been seen by an approved physician within the last 16 months prior to application. 

 

The qualifying conditions to get your medical card are as follows:

 

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic or severe pain
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures, including those characteristics of epilepsy
  • Severe nausea

To register for Alaska’s medical marijuana program, you must first meet with a qualified doctor and receive a signed physician’s statement affirming that you have been diagnosed with at least one of the state’s qualifying conditions. Then, you can apply online and submit this statement. Along with the statement, Alaska requires a photocopy of your driver’s license or ID, as well as a $25 payment.

Yes! If you are 21 or older and have a valid ID, you’re able to purchase adult-use cannabis in Alaska. However, there is no reciprocity for out-of-state medical patients, unfortunately. 

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