All forms of cannabis are regarded as ‘controlled dangerous substances’ in Alaska. This means that despite what some people think about using cannabis or some of its products, use is regulated by law and doing the wrong thing can lead to a criminal charge. If you do wish to grow, consume or distribute cannabis products it is wise to know where you stand. If you are arrested for violating any of Alaska’s cannabis laws, you should know what it is that you have been accused of. Just because you have been arrested and charged does not mean you have actually committed a crime. You are entitled to defend yourself if you think you have been accused of doing something which you have not done or which you believe was legal. You may need a good criminal defense lawyer to ensure you get fair treatment by the law.
How cannabis is classified as a controlled dangerous substance (CDS)
Firstly, the distinction between the relatively less potent form of cannabis, variously known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope and the more potent hash or other concentrated forms of cannabis must be made. Weed or pot is still classified as a controlled substance, but is put in the ‘least dangerous’ schedule, VIA, whereas hashish, or hash, is put in schedule IIIA, which is three schedules or levels higher than weed.
The reasoning behind these different categories is that hashish has been processed further than weed, which results in a higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it. THC is the active chemical that causes the changes in emotional and mental state (the ‘high’) for which cannabis is known for. THC levels in weed and hash vary from one sample to another but, on average, THC in hash is about three times as concentrated as it is in weed.
The possession or distribution of hash attracts much more severe penalties in Alaska than the possession or distribution of weed.
For the purposes of this article the word ‘marijuana’ will be used to signify the schedule VIA drug, not the IIIA drug.
What you can and cannot do with weed
Marijuana has been grown and consumed, either legally or illegally, in Alaska for a long time. Actual legislation has reversed itself over the years making it difficult to be certain what is actually allowed without being arrested. The law was changed in February 2015, which partly decriminalized the cultivation, consumption and sale of the product. A further law change in November 2015 affected the legalization of licensed sale of small quantities of marijuana for personal use.
The law as it stands at the moment allows the possession and use of up to 4 ounces of marijuana in one’s own home. The cultivation of up to 6 marijuana plants is also allowed, unless the plants are all grown at home when a maximum of 25 can be grown. The possession of up to, but not exceeding, 1 ounce of marijuana in a public place is also allowed.
The possession of more than 4 ounces in one’s own home, more than 1 ounce in a public place or the cultivation of more than 6 plants, or 25 plants at home, are all illegal.
The distribution of marijuana is also regulated. You are allowed to give up to 1 ounce to someone over 21 as long as it is freely given and not sold. Licensed vendors are allowed to sell up to 1 ounce of marijuana at a time to anyone over 21, but it is illegal to do so if unlicensed.
It is also illegal to possess or give away any cannabis at all within 500 yards of a school unless you are in your own home and this happens to lie within the 500 yard limit.
Penalties for possession or sale of marijuana in Alaska
Illegal cultivation, use, distribution or sale of marijuana attracts penalties ranging from misdemeanors with fines of up to $10,000 and up to1 year in jail to felony convictions with fines of up to $100,000 and 10 years in jail. The most severe penalties are given to those who attempt to sell more than 4 ounces of marijuana to someone under 19 and who are more than 3 years younger than the seller.
Note that as with other offenses repeat offenses are treated more seriously than first convictions and the penalties progressively increase.
Also note that the possession distribution and sale of hash, an IIIA CDS, is completely illegal, with much stiffer penalties.
As can be seen from the details above, there is often a fine line between what is legal and what is illegal and it is easy to fall foul of the law and be arrested. If this is what has happened to you and you are convinced that you were not doing anything wrong, you should use the services of an experienced and criminal defense attorney to defend you. Ring the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage on (907)-206-8008 in Anchorage to arrange a consultation.