Marijuana Legalization 2016: Alaska Recreational Weed To Be Served In 'Pot Cafes'

John Houck

As momentum spreads for national marijuana legalization in 2016, access to cannabis is becoming more and more convenient. One state where weed is legal for recreational use may be allowing a convenience never seen before in the United States.

For the first time in the U.S., "pot cafes" are getting ready to open their doors in Alaska, with the first ones slated to serve customers sometime mid-2016. Adults, aged 21 and over, will soon be able to legally buy and consume edible marijuana inside a government-authorized public establishment.

After wrangling with the interpretation of state drug laws, the Alaska state marijuana control board approved on-site consumption at retail stores in November. However, that doesn't mean weed cafes will be sprouting up everywhere. Municipalities will have the final word on whether they will be allowed within the city.

Some Alaskan cities have strict anti-smoking laws which prohibit tobacco and marijuana smoking in public places like restaurants. Serving edible marijuana products, like cannabis-infused chocolate bars, can be an effective way to skirt the regulations, should the city allow pot cafes in the first place.

"Tourists are obviously willing to pay a premium on a lot of things just to be part of the experience of floating up the Inside Passage," says attorney and regular pot smoker Kevin Higgins.

Juneau mayor Mary Becker doesn't see the cannabis attraction and believes tourists will want to visit Alaska for reasons other than recreational weed. "Have we looked at the Mendenhall Glacier? Have we gone out on the water and seen the whales? I have a hard time thinking people are going to come to Juneau to get their pot," she says.

Marijuana legalization in Alaska was endorsed in February of last year. Yet, much of the country has yet to follow suit. With the trend continuing to rise, there is a high expectation among cannabis advocates that pot legalization initiatives or amendments will be showing up on ballots in the November, 2016, elections.

This has businesses excited about the potential growth of the marijuana industry. Analysts believe, should national marijuana legalization take hold in 2016, the industry stands to bring in $35 billion in annual sales.

Even celebrities are getting excited about the business opportunity. In a related Inquisitr report, Snoop Dogg invested $10 million in a company that wants to deliver marijuana directly to a buyer's home.

Despite the significant probability for success, there is no guarantee pot cafes will work. Many are concerned about regulating the quality and consistency of edible marijuana products. Additionally, keeping the products out of the hands of people under 21 could be next to impossible.

Although marijuana legalization laws will continue to sweep across the nation in 2016, the U.S. government has yet to enact legislation that decriminalizes cannabis at the federal level. Until this happens, many marijuana businesses, like pot cafes, will have a difficult time.

Currently, a marijuana business does not get the same treatment as a traditional business. According to the U.S. government, businesses dealing with weed are selling an illegal product, so do not qualify for the normal tax deductions granted to most other businesses.

Financial institutions also stay away from marijuana businesses. Banks normally deny services like checking accounts and lines of credit to cannabis companies, as government regulators could consider these transactions money laundering and shut the bank down.

With more and more people clamoring for lawful access to cannabis, marijuana legalization in 2016 will continue to be a burning topic on the minds of federal, state and local policymakers.

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]