Alaska made a big step forward this week in its move to set up its marijuana industry. The state voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November of 2014 and planned to have regulations implemented by May 24th. They may be a little late but they are still on track and Alaska marijuana licenses have begun to be distributed amongst the variety of commercial businesses that will need to be in place to ensure a healthy cannabis industry. The Alaska marijuana industry will be starting from scratch, as there are currently no dispensaries in place. While medical marijuana was legal in Alaska, it could not be purchased in a dispensary. It had to be home grown by a registered patient or caregiver.
The Alaska Marijuana Control Board’s Role
The Alaska Marijuana Control Board has now taken the next step in implementing the regulations they put in place by beginning the process of distributing licenses. This Thursday, the board began voting on business licenses with the first licenses being given to testing labs and cultivators. The first testing lab who received a license was CannTest LLC of Anchorage. In fact they were the first cannabis based company to receive a license in Alaska. The first grower to get a license was Rosie Creek Farm of Fairbanks. Juneau’s first grower was Rainforest Farms. The process of license distribution is expected to continue all through Friday. Retail stores will begin receiving licenses in the fall.
Stipulations of a License
Once the license has been distributed to the tester or grower, the company must wait 60 days to ensure that a local office doesn’t protest having a marijuana based company in the area. Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office executive director Cynthia Franklin clarifies, “You’re delegating the authority to grant it if that 60-day period has a happy ending. The granting is not completed until the 60-day run with no protest.” Business owners will also be expected to pass a background check.
A Regulations Conflict
Some concern for rural marijuana businesses were discussed by the board during Thursday’s meeting. One of Alaska’s regulations for selling marijuana requires all batches to be tested to ensure that they contain no microbes, mold or dangerous chemicals. In order to do this in rural areas, marijuana will need to be transported across the ocean. The Coast Guard forbids the travel of marijuana by sea and the FAA restricts the transportation of cannabis by air. Based on Oregon’s experience, so long as the marijuana is itemized and being transported for testing, rather than use, there has been no federal interference.
With stores being licensed in the fall, it shouldn’t be too much longer before Alaska’s recreational marijuana industry is up and functioning, along with states like Oregon, Washington, Colorado and D.C. Many other states including Nevada and California are set to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in this November’s ballot, joining in the trend across the country that is regulating and selling marijuana recreationally like alcohol. The new industry is bringing much needed jobs and funding into the states where it has become legal. Alaska is now on its way to experiencing these benefits.