Despite remarks he made earlier this month, Gov. Bill Walker won’t attempt to delay the implementation of a new state law that will legalize the use and sale of marijuana, his office announced Tuesday.
Walker said at a Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce meeting in December that he hoped to delay implementation of the commercial sales component of the law, which was approved by voters Nov. 4, according to an Associated Press report. Sixty-eight percent of downtown Juneau voters and 59 percent of Mendenhall Valley voters approved the measure.
Through the citizen ballot intiative, marijuana use and posession becomes legal 90 days after election results were certified by the Alaska Division of Elections on Nov. 24, which means the drug will be legal starting Feb. 24, 2015. Selling and growing the substance commercially will be legal once a regulatory system has been adopted and permits issued by the state. A delay in marijuana sale implementation would not impact when using the drug would become legal.
“I asked if we could (delay) it for four years,” Walker joked at the chamber meeting, according to the Associated Press report. “I can put it off 90 days, but not four years. We’ll probably go the 90-day route. So that’s, you know, where we are.”
Walker announced Tuesday that he is no longer looking into delaying marijuana sales because the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, the Department of Revenue and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board — all organizations that have a role in Alaska’s pot roll-out — said there’s enough time to develop and implement a regulatory system for marijuana businesses and growers before the deadline of Nov. 24.
“We have strong, cooperative leadership heading up implementation of this very important act,” Walker said in a news release. “They assured me that we can meet the statutory and regulatory timelines outlined in the initiative that voters passed in November. I’m confident that we will be diligent in our efforts to make sure we have adequate regulations for this new industry in place and on time.”
If the ABC board does not adopt the new marijuana regulations by Nov. 24, 2015, Alaska’s local governments have the option to establish their own regulations, according to the Department of Commerce’s marijuana frequently asked questions website.
Walker spokeswoman Grace Jang said Walker didn’t make Tuesday’s announcement because he had changed his mind about what he said at the chamber meeting.
“It’s not that he changed his mind,” she said. “(The departments of) revenue and commerce assured us that they can definitely do it within the time frame that’s within the initiative.”
Jang said Walker never had a time period in mind when he was considering a delay; the 90 days he mentioned at the chamber meeting were the 90 days already built into the initiative.
Walker was considering a delay because he worried there wouldn’t be enough time to work out the kinks before the November deadline, she said, not because of his personal beliefs. He was openly against marijuana legalization during his campaign.
“His personal opinions don’t really... The people have spoken, and he’s going to be upholding the will of the voters, no matter how he voted on it,” Jang said.
Some members of the Alaska Legislature, which convenes in Juneau for session Jan. 20, have announced they will sponsor bills to amend the initiatve and further regulate legal marijuana in the state.
The ABC board expects to begin accepting applications for marijuana sales licenses Feb. 24, 2016, a year after the substance will be legalized. The board should begin awarding the licenses by late May of that year. The number of licenses available will be determined by the ABC board.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.
A quick look at marijuana legalization
• Feb. 24, 2015 — Marijuana use and posession is legalized and the state’s nine-month window to create a commercial sales structure begins.
• Nov. 24, 2015 — Alcoholic Beverage Control Board must adopt regulatory structure. If it does not, local governments have the option to create their own regulations.
• Feb. 24, 2016 — Board must begin accepting applications for marijuana selling and growing business licenses.
• May 24, 2016 — Marijuana business licenses begin to be awarded.
Information comes from the Department of Commerce website.