Marijuana laws in Alaska won't change despite federal enforcement
Cannabis Caucus says Trump's administration needs education on the issue
Valdez Star file photo
Valdez man Michael Holcombe was the very first Alaskan to legally buy marijuana in the state when Herbal Outfitters opened its doors last year.
(AP) A representative for the Alaska attorney general's office said a change in how the federal government enforces its own marijuana laws would not affect state marijuana laws.
Alaska's law legalizing recreational marijuana wouldn't be overturned, Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills said Thursday after White House spokesman Sean Spicer suggested during a press briefing that President Donald Trump's administration might crack down on states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Alaska is one of eight states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
"The federal law is one thing and the state has the right to enact laws in this area and those are perfectly constitutional," Mills said. "Our law wouldn't be overturned. But there is a different federal law, and how they want to enforce the federal law is up to the federal government. We'll just wait and see what sort of actions they take."
Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said it's too early to get too worked up about Spicer's comments. He said this sounds like an initial overture.
"But you have to see something happen before you can really react to it," he said.
A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives from states where marijuana is legal, said the White House spokesman's statements reaffirms the need for their newly formed group, called the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
"We hope today's comments do not reflect the views of the president and his administration," said the statement from Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; Jared Polis, D-Colo., Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Don Young, R-Alaska.
In Alaska, marijuana buds are legal to purchase from state licensed retailers, which conflicts with federal law.
"We stand ready to educate this administration on the need for more sensible marijuana policies and share the many experiences states have had with the legalization of cannabis," the four co-chairs said. "Together, we will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to reform our failed marijuana policies and provide a voice for Americans who have overwhelmingly voted for a more sensible drug policy," the statement says.
Mills said Alaska created marijuana regulations that drew guidance from a memo issued by Deputy U.S. Attorney James Cole regarding federal marijuana enforcement.
The memo laid out that limited federal enforcement resources would focus on the most significant threats. Those included, for example, distribution of marijuana to minors, revenue from marijuana sales going to criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels, and the possible diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law to some form in other states.
"The federal law does differ from state law, so we will have to see how they come down on that," Mills said.