Bill fixing alcohol and marijuana laws sails toward passage

Reforms rule changes industry and public health advocates support.

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Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, and chair of the Judiciary Committee speaking to the House in February. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A bill with big implications for alcohol and marijuana has sailed out of the House Judiciary committee without opposition.

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SB 165, sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, deals primarily with reforming the rules around alcohol consumption for minors and adults younger than 21.

The bill changes the Minor Consuming Alcohol violation under Title 4, making it a $500 penalty, similar to a parking ticket. That fee can be reduced as low as $50 if a person completes a treatment program within a six months of the judgement, which supporters of the bill say is a more effective way of dealing with youth substance abuse than the current system.

The rule change would also keep a young person’s name from appearing on the state’s Courtview website, which Sen. Micciche said in earlier testimony can devastate a young person’s life.

Judiciary Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, calls the change a significant improvement.

“As someone who once upon a time had teenage children, I always was kind of perplexed by some of the insanity in our alcohol regulation relating to minors,” LeDoux said in closing remarks. “This fixes a lot.”

Many Title 4 laws haven’t been updated since 1980, according to Chuck Kopp, aid to Sen. Micciche.

Another part of the legislation clears a roadblock currently faced by residents hoping to start cannabis businesses across the state. It authorizes the department of Public Safety to run criminal background checks on applicants for commercial cannabis permits, which are currently under review by the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

Public health officials as well as members of the alcohol industry, who are often on opposing sides of regulatory debates, have both spoken in support of the measure.

SB 165 now moves on to the Rules Committee. Proponents are optimistic it will pass this session.

 

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Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska. @ZachHughesAK About Zachariah