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Alaska lawmakers plan work on marijuana-related crime laws, municipal authority, this summer

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska lawmakers say they will continue working on marijuana bills over the interim.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, said the House Judiciary Committee, which she chairs, will work on a bill that would update state crime laws to reflect marijuana legalization, including a discussion of whether it should be on Alaska's list of controlled substances.

That was one of several marijuana-related bills introduced this session, after voters in November approved recreational marijuana. Just one has passed: a bill from Gov. Bill Walker that creates a new marijuana board.

Unless action is taken before the Legislature ends, or the governor adds them to a special session call, they'll be on the table when work resumes next January.

LeDoux said the committee didn't want to rush legislation through and pass the Senate's version of the bill without studying it. Instead they'll continue that work this summer.

"I really want to kind of go over it with a fine-tooth comb, and make sure that what we do is correct," she said.

The Senate spent about two and a half months on several drafts of the bill before passing a version in March that kept marijuana on the state's controlled substances list.

LeDoux said her preference is to remove marijuana from that list, but some committee members want it on there.

Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, said lawmakers will also work over the interim on a bill addressing how municipalities can trump state laws with local regulations, including prohibiting marijuana businesses or limiting hours of operation, for example.

That bill was sent back to the Senate Rules Committee after the version that passed the House didn't have enough votes to pass in the Senate.

Coghill said the sticking points are local option provisions and a household limit for marijuana plants.

Some lawmakers want to prohibit marijuana businesses in much of the unorganized borough, and have communities opt back in to marijuana regulations, while others would prefer to use the opt-out system that was set up in the ballot initiative.

"Since we don't really have to get it into place until the industry is allowed to license itself, we though, let's let it sit for the summer and figure that out." Coghill said.

The new marijuana board has a November deadline for drafting regulations for the new industry, with the first licenses expected to be handed out in May 2016.

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