Marijuana possession, sale, and distribution is regulated by both state and federal law. In Alaska, marijuana is regulated as a "Schedule VIA" controlled substance—this schedule identifies substances that have the lowest degree of danger or probable danger to individuals or the public. (Alaska Stat. § 11.71.190.) It's illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Alaska does allow medical use of marijuana.
To learn more about medical use of marijuana, see Alaska Medical Marijuana Laws.
To learn more about driving under the influence of marijuana in Alaska, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Alaska.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession
Alaska has a history of attempting to decriminalize personal use of marijuana. At the time of this writing, possession of even small amounts of marijuana remains illegal. Because this area of the law is in flux, be sure to check current laws if you are arrested for a marijuana-related offense. Possession of a relatively small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor, but possessing marijuana near a school or in larger quantities is a felony.
Possession of Marijuana in Alaska
Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. (Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.060, 12.55.135, 12.55.035.)
Possession of one to four ounces of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. (Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.050, 12.55.135, 12.55.035.)
Possession of four ounces of marijuana or more (or 25 or more cannabis plants) is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
Possession of any amount of marijuana will rise to a class C felony if it occurs within 500 feet of school grounds or a recreation center, or on a school bus. In addition, it is a class C felony to maintain any structure or dwelling (including vehicles) to keep and distribute marijuana. (Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.040, 12.55.125, 12.55.035.)
Affirmative Defenses to Marijuana Possession
An affirmative defense is information (evidence) presented by the defendant that negates or mitigates the crime. Self-defense is a classic affirmative defense. Alaska law provides for certain affirmative defenses, including:
Home use. A defendant who is charged with possession based on proximity to school grounds or a youth center can raise the affirmative defense of home use if he or she demonstrates that the prohibited conduct took place entirely within a permanent private residence. (Alaska Stat. § 11.71.040.)
Medical marijuana. Anyone accused of a marijuana-related crime may raise the defense that the offender is a patient or caregiver who is registered with the state’s medical marijuana registry. (See “Does Alaska Allow Medical Marijuana Use?” below.)
Marijuana Cultivation, Sale, and Trafficking
Alaska criminalizes the cultivation, sale, and trafficking of marijuana. Punishment is based on the amount involved:
- Less than one ounce. Manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver less than one ounce of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. (Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.050, 12.55.135, 12.55.035.)
- More than one ounce. Manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver more than one ounce of marijuana is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. (Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.040, 12.55.125, 12.55.035.)
Additional Penalties for Sales to Minors
It is a class B felony to deliver any amount of marijuana to a minor (under 19) who is at least three years younger than the person delivering the substance. This offense is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. (Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.030, 12.55.125, 12.55.035.)
Does Alaska Allow Medical Marijuana Use?
Yes. State law provides for a confidential statewide registry of medical marijuana patients and caregivers who, once registered, are issued individual ID cards. Patients who meet the criteria set forth in Alaska law and who wish to register must submit an application (including a physician’s statement describing the applicant’s medical condition) along with the necessary fees. (Alaska Stat. § 17.37.010.)
Registered individuals who are prosecuted for the manufacture, delivery, or possession of marijuana may raise the affirmative defense of medical marijuana use, provided that, at the time of the arrest:
- the patient was property registered with the state’s medical marijuana registry
- the circumstances surrounding the incident complied with the requirements of such registration, and
- the defendant is the patient or primary (or alternate) caregiver and was in physical possession of a valid registry card at the time of the offense. (Alaska Stat. § 11.71.090.)
Does Alaska Impose a Stamp Tax on Marijuana?
No. Some states impose a stamp tax on marijuana. Those who fail to pay the tax, and are found guilty of marijuana possession, face not only criminal penalties but also become liable for back taxes. Alaska does not impose this type of tax on marijuana.
Local Legal Help
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, you face the possibility of jail time and fines. You will need to consult with an experienced Alaska criminal defense attorney to learn how strong the prosecution’s case appears to be, whether you have viable defenses to the charge, whether you can negotiate a dismissal or plea bargain, or how you might fare if you plead not guilty as charged and go to trial.