Alaska’s new law allowing adults 21 and over to possess, use and grow recreational marijuana has been in effect for more than a month. The state legislature is working to come up with rules regulating the sale of pot.
In Haines, the borough assembly decided to wait until the state comes up with legislation before taking any action on local rules. But some residents aren’t waiting on the legislature to take advantage of legalized pot.
Dean Lari’s phone has been ringing constantly since he posted an ad on the Haines community website titled “Cannabis Exchange.” In it, he says, “with Measure 2 we now have a great and LEGAL way to exchange marijuana strains.”
Lari sees the Cannabis Exchange as a way to get pot growers and smokers together to share experiences.
“I just saw this as a way to break the ice and say ‘hey people we don’t have to hide indoors, we don’t have to look when the cops drive by, we don’t have to spray air freshener when they open the door.'”
Lari, who goes by the nickname ‘Bear,’ grows six plants in his own home. You can tell when you walk in the door — the smell of marijuana permeates the place. Lari’s son is in the kitchen, trimming one of the plants. Lari shows me the small, brightly lit room where he grows a strain of pot called “Querkle.”
“I average about maybe three quarters of an ounce or maybe an ounce of usable pot[per plant.]” he says.
Lari says he smokes about an ounce of pot a week for medicinal reasons. He also uses it in smoothies. With six plants, Lari says he’s only able to provide pot for himself and one other medical marijuana user.
Lari thinks a cannabis exchange could help inform people who have negative views of marijuana.
“I want people that don’t smoke, people that don’t get high that are scared — come and see with your own two eyes,” he said. “You could take a drink, take a bite or take a hit. You’re not gonna die from it. But then you could speak from experience.”
Lari says there wouldn’t be any money involved with exchange.
“If you bring a couple of nugs, I’m gonna give you a couple of nugs. We’re just trading pot, we’re just exchanging pot.”
What about people who don’t have pot? “I’ll give you a nug,” Lari says. “I don’t mind sharing a joint with you.”
Lari says he’s consulted a lawyer to make sure this kind of exchange is legal. Juneau District Attorney James Scott said in an email that he can’t answer whether the exchange would be legal until the close of the legislative session. Haines Police Chief Bill Musser didn’t comment on the legality of it, but referred KHNS to the state statute.
“I’m not waiting for the legislature, I can assure you of that,” Lari said. “Because what I want to do has nothing to do with retail sales, it has nothing to do with wholesale growing. I’m community-oriented, non-profit.”
Lari sees a cannabis exchange as a precursor to something bigger. He wants to start a community garden where people pay for plots to grow their own marijuana plants.
Lari calls Haines the “pot-smokingest town” he knows. He says the approximately 63 percent of Haines voters that supported Measure 2 shows that.
“That means that every single person in this community has somebody in their circle of people they love that are smoking pot.”
Lari says in the week since he posted the cannabis exchange ad, the response has been “huge” and “unbelievable.” He says he’s heard from a number of people who are interested in learning more about growing their own marijuana plants.