ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – From free samples to drive-thru windows, the Anchorage Assembly will be getting feedback from the public Tuesday on how marijuana retailers in Anchorage should be regulated.

Assembly Chair Chris Constant said the intention of two draft ordinances that are up for discussion is to get the municipality in compliance with state laws.

Constant said in an interview on Monday the municipality has to be careful when drafting these new laws.

“There is a sense of time pressure. Are we going to allow these things or not … because the state has made it lawful,” Constant said.

Marijuana retailers are currently prohibited from having drive-thru windows at their establishments, but the State of Alaska made it legal for retailers to do so in August.

Constant said there is some concern that allowing drive-thrus in Anchorage would create an unfair advantage for some retailers.

“Some businesses have buildings that could allow a drive-thru, but others don’t,” Constant said. “But in some ways, it doesn’t make sense to limit it because some can and others can’t. Because practically speaking, that’s the same for most businesses. Your location is everything and how you’re structured, that’s how the competition works in the free market.”

Alaska Marijuana Industry Association Vice President Trevor Haynes agrees there is a competitive advantage to a retailer having a drive-thru.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the state had to do more revision to the drive-thru [law] — since it is kind of a tricky regulation change — before it’s finished,“ Haynes said.

But the benefit is also undeniable for those customers who are able to take advantage of it, especially during Alaska’s cold winter months, he said.

“I think a lot of retailers are hoping that maybe that will provide access to people who just don’t want to get out of their car because it’s minus 40, the icy conditions, and they can just conveniently go through a drive-thru,” Haynes said.

The State of Alaska has also made it legal for marijuana dispensaries to pass out free samples of products to customers. But state law didn’t establish guidance on what can be handed out and how much.

Constant says some cannabis store operators have raised concerns about the law and potential abuses that could occur.

“I have heard from some operators that there are patrons who are demanding free weed, free marijuana. That’s not a really good environment to be in where businesses are having people come in [and] demand free controlled substances,” Constant said.

Haynes acknowledged the concern and said it is now a problem that Anchorage will have to fix.

“I don’t think a lot of people in Anchorage realize that there’s this lag behind the state regulations and the municipal code. So people in Anchorage might be saying, ‘Well, why can’t I get a free sample? I know that you can give them to me,’ but in actuality, there’s a lag and they have to wait until the municipal code is updated,” Haynes said.

If regulated properly, Haynes said free samples allow the marijuana industry to level the playing field.

“Pretty much every other business in the state can give away free samples,” Haynes said.

In the end, Constant says the Assembly has to be careful in how it updates its municipal code.

“It’s possible that a licensee could try to designate their entire parking lot and everywhere as their licensed premises, which would be problematic, because then they could have people out in the street, you know, distributing marijuana, which isn’t the goal, it should be [distributed] out from the building,” Constant said.

Constant says that after the public hearing at Tuesday’s meeting, the Assembly will have a more in-depth conversation about the code changes at its Economic Development Committee meeting.

 From free samples to drive-thru windows, the Anchorage Assembly will be getting feedback from the public Tuesday on how marijuana retailers in Anchorage should be regulated.  Read More