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Regulatory board takes first look at community options for new marijuana industry in Alaska

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Communities could opt-out or limit marijuana businesses much the same way they do alcohol under proposed regulations put forth by the state alcohol control board.

The board reviewed the first of three sets of marijuana regulations on Thursday, which included a system for community regulations.

Voters approved a ballot issue in November legalizing limited recreational marijuana and directed the board to develop regulations for the industry.

A new marijuana board that shares staff with the alcohol board is expected to take over that work eventually. Legislators recently passed a bill to establish the new board.

The first set of regulations would allow municipalities and established villages to prohibit the new industry, or to limit what aspects of commercial or retail marijuana sales, cultivation and manufacturing are allowed in the community.

Cynthia Franklin, executive director of the state alcohol board, said there will be one major difference between alcohol and marijuana regulations: Communities can prohibit alcohol possession entirely but cannot prohibit marijuana possession at home because it is protected as a privacy right under a prior Alaska Supreme Court decision.

The draft regulations also included a definition of edibles that prohibits sales of prepackaged food that has been altered to include marijuana.

Other definitions in the regulations include marijuana plants and possession.

The board directed the state Department of Law to open a public comment period on the regulations reviewed Thursday. The next meeting on the new regulations likely will be held in July, and Franklin said the new marijuana board could take over the regulatory process at the point.

The next set of regulations, which is expected to include rules for testing and certifying marijuana, will also likely be reviewed at the July meeting, Franklin said.

The board also made permanent a temporary regulation that defines the public places where marijuana is prohibited.

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