Alaska grants licenses, but not without controversy

alaska-from-distance

Board shakeup distresses cannabis industry

By Jana Weltzin

The Last Frontier’s cannabis industry is chugging right along. On June 10, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board made history by approving the state’s first commercial marijuana business licenses.

The meeting was packed with energy from local and state officials, applicants and industry advocates brimming with a mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm to witness history. However, the progress came to a screeching halt when Mark Springer, the Marijuana Control Board’s rural representative, called for executive session, allowing the board to remove the public from the meeting without violating open meeting laws.

The executive session lasted almost an hour and a half, with all five board members looking visibly flustered when the public was allowed to rejoin the meeting. No disclosure was made to the public regarding the matters discussed during the executive session. Since no action was taken, the contents of the executive session will likely remain confidential to the public.

The board proceeded to replace Bruce Schulte as the chairman with Peter Mlynarik, the chief of the Soldotna Police Department and the public safety member of the Marijuana Control Board. Mlynarik was elected by a 3-2 vote in his favor by the five-member board.

The change in chairmanship was not welcomed by the industry, as Schulte has been a strong cannabis advocate, but it gives Schulte more flexibility to make motions and take stances on controversial issues. In a sense, the change could actually be beneficial for the industry as a whole.

After the clandestine and controversial political maneuverings, the Marijuana Control Board moved on to more important matters — reviewing and granting licenses. The board questioned each applicant on topics ranging from language in their ID checking policies for visitors to the company’s waste disposal plan.

CannTest and AK Green Lab were the first two companies to be granted licenses, and they are the first, and so far only, companies in the state to have submitted applications for testing labs.

Rosie Creek Farm (RCFC, LLC) was the first standard cultivation facility to be approved, and the first outdoor cultivation establishment considered by the Marijuana Control Board. Rosie Creek Farm was also approved by the Fairbanks North Star Borough the same day, making it the first marijuana establishment to receive both state and local approval.

Some applications were tabled due to lack of information, an inadequate waste plan, inadequate visitor plan or the establishment being located in a municipality that has a moratorium on the ballot to opt out of the commercial marijuana business.

Despite the historic excitement and feelings of dreams slowly shifting into reality, there was a nagging negative energy that filled the board room. Many speculations swirl and faulty assumptions will surely continue. The confidential nature of the executive session leads one to question whether it was worth keeping the public out of the room during the discussion. There’s clearly distrust on both sides of the industry.

Forcing people who have taken time from their jobs, lives and daily routines to sit outside for an hour and a half until the dirt is swept up left a little too much to the imagination.

 

Jana Weltzin is the owner of JDW, a law firm in Anchorage, Alaska (jdwcounsel.com). She advises clients in the cannabis industry in Arizona and Alaska. She assists clients with business structure, compliance with state and local laws, zoning approval, site selection and product regulations.

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