Private clubs that allow people to consume marijuana in exchange for a fee are illegal, according to Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth.
She issued an opinion Wednesday that also said offering marijuana samples to paying patrons may violate state criminal law that bars distributing marijuana without a valid commercial license.
The state Marijuana Control Board has authorized retail marijuana stores to allow marijuana consumption on their premises.
Social clubs are like any other place of business where marijuana consumption is not allowed by law, Lindemuth said.
Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills reinforced the point.
“If that place is not a licensed retail marijuana store, consuming marijuana there is unlawful,” Mills said.
The ballot question that Alaskans approved in 2014 allowed the state to tax and regulate marijuana retailers. But it banned the public use of marijuana, and Lindemuth said social clubs are public places like other unlicensed businesses.
Mills said a person who operates a social club that provides marijuana samples would be violating the law if they receive a fee.
“Without a license from the Marijuana Control Board, a person may not possess more than 1 ounce of marijuana, or transfer marijuana for any sort of payment,” she said.
Lindemuth issued the opinion in response to a request from Chris Hladick, the commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
Clubs have either started or are planned in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Homer, but the opinion appeared to put those clubs in doubt.
One business that’s sure to be affected by the ruling is Pot Luck Events, a marijuana/cannabis club in Anchorage that’s been open for about a year and a-half, since March 2015.
In that time, the club has charged dues for access to an events space where members can use and trade cannabis.
The club has had a murky but diplomatic legal relationship with state and local officials.
Though the owners couldn’t be reached for comment, Lance Wells, Pot Luck’s attorney, said he’s still “digesting” the ruling and can’t say yet what it means for his client.
How the opinion will be enforced will be determined by local police, state troopers and the Marijuana Control Board, like other marijuana laws, Mills said.
Alaska Public Media’s Zachariah Hughes contributed to this report.