JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature passed a bill Friday allowing national criminal history checks on people applying for licenses to open legal marijuana businesses.
The provisions, sought by marijuana regulators, were tucked into a broader bill dealing with state alcohol laws that had gotten tangled up in the Senate after the House attached provisions related to the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers
The Marijuana Control Board has begun accepting business license applications. State law prohibits the issuance of licenses to individuals who have had felony convictions within five years of their application or are on probation or parole for that felony.
The House tweak caused the bill to stall in the Senate early Monday during the final throes of a marathon floor session. At the time, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Peter Micciche, suggested there could be an issue with attaching the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers’ provisions to it.
On the Senate floor Friday, Micciche, R-Soldotna, said he spent some time with legislative counsel evaluating whether the add-on would compromise the bill. The conclusion was that the House change was unlikely to do so, he said.
The underlying bill addresses the makeup of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, so adding another board to the bill appeared to be OK, he said in an interview.
Changes to alcohol laws under the bill include making the possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor a violation subject to a $500 fine that in certain cases could be reduced, such as completion of an alcohol education program. The court system would be restricted from posting such violations on its records website.
In a release, Micciche said he got involved in reviewing state alcohol laws to address the “counterproductive consequences suffered by young people from a mistake of possessing or consuming alcohol before they are 21 years old.”
“When you’re trying to help a young person who’s made a mistake to succeed, throwing multiple obstacles in their way further complicates their potential for success,” he said.
With the Senate’s actions Friday, the bill passed the Legislature and now goes to Gov. Bill Walker for consideration.
Background check provisions for marijuana business applicants also were included in a Senate rewrite of a marijuana bill on which House and Senate negotiators so far have been unable to reach a compromise. The main sticking point has been a proposal to bar legal marijuana operations in unincorporated areas outside organized boroughs but allow communities in those areas to hold local elections to allow pot businesses.
Lawmakers on Friday continued to meet in extended session, with thorny issues still outstanding. The inability of the House to come to terms on changes to the state’s oil and gas tax credit program helped send lawmakers into overtime. Resolution on that issue is seen as key to making further progress on the budget and revenue-related bills.
Other work was getting done. On Friday, House and Senate negotiators approved contracts for four state employee unions as part of ongoing work on the budget. The House Finance Committee met on legislation proposing changes to the state’s criminal justice system.