Legal but not free: staying safe with marijuana in Alaska

On November 4 2014, Ballot Measure 2 was passed by the voters of Alaska, making the state one of only four in the U.S. to legalize the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons over the age of 21. Though it may seem like a simple change, there are many specific rules and restrictions to know if one wants to safe and legal in the state.

In many respects Alaska has tried to keep marijuana law similar to laws regarding alcohol. Remember that marijuana is still illegal for those under 21 years of age. Those 21 or over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and consume it on private property, in a private residence. However, they need to be indoors and out of public view while they partake.

Private property is the safest option, but what if someone is camping? Smoking in state parks could lead to a costly fine. National parks and forests, meanwhile, are under federal jurisdiction, and all federal laws pertaining to marijuana are in effect on those lands. So bring the firewood and make sure that’s the only thing burning.

Federal restrictions are important to students living on campus, as well. UAF is on federal land and receives funding from the Department of Education, so possessing or consuming marijuana on campus or in a dorm room is still illegal.

Using marijuana within 500-feet of schools, school buses and recreation or youth centers is still very much illegal. The only exception is if your personal residence is within the bubble and you are inside, out of view of the public. Again, if someone is behind closed doors on private property, they have a green light.

Driving while possessing less than one ounce is legal, as long as all individuals in the vehicle are over 21. However, and unsurprisingly, driving while consuming or under the effects of marijuana is illegal. High and in need of transportation? It’s best to call a cab or a friend.

It’s important to note that all marijuana concentrates – such as waxes and oils – are still universally illegal to posses or consume. Legal use and possession of marijuana only applies to the buds and flowers of the mature plant.

While these are good rules to know off-hand, they’re by no mean the only restrictions on marijuana in Alaska. If ever unsure of the rules, consider that if it’s illegal with alcohol, it’s probably illegal with marijuana too. To learn more about marijuana legalization in Alaska, more information can be found at Norml and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

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