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Alaska Senate Finance Committee advances marijuana crimes bill

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JUNEAU, Alaska — A Senate committee advanced legislation Monday that would update state laws related to marijuana crimes.

The Senate Finance Committee moved the bill after adopting a new version.

SB 30, would update state crimes now that certain recreational use and possession of marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older. It sets out the crimes for possession of larger amounts of marijuana, allows emergency responders under 21 to enter marijuana businesses, and prohibits delivery or transportation of marijuana for sale or barter.

It also would prohibit a commercial or retail marijuana industry in the state's unorganized borough outside of municipalities, although it allows established villages to opt back in.

The most contentious of the amendments the committee discussed earlier in the month, which would have banned marijuana concentrates beginning in 2017, was not included in the version of the bill the committee advanced.

Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, proposed that ban. He said he would support moving the newest version of the bill without the ban, but he wanted to see it put back in the measure later in the process.

The committee also added language that Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, said was meant to help justify the commercial ban in the unorganized borough, which he also proposed.

The initiative legalizing recreational pot, approved by voters in November, allowed communities to opt-out of a new marijuana industry, but Hoffman's amendment flips that for certain rural areas, requiring them to opt-in instead. During a previous hearing, a representative from the state Department of Law said including the reasoning for such a switch could help if it is challenged in court.

Hoffman said he worked with the department and the Legislature's research division to put together the information.

The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee for scheduling for a floor vote.

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