Commercial Weed in the Last Frontier – Update from Alaska

justice-311699By Jana Weltzin

The Last Frontier is chugging right along and as of Friday, June 10, 2016, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board (“MCB”) reviewed and made Alaska history by approving the State’s first ever commercial marijuana establishment licenses.  Starting on Thursday. June 9th, 2016, the Board tackled its three-page agenda, which included regulatory updates, thirty (30) marijuana establishment applications, and some miscellaneous administrative updates.

The room was packed with energy, applicants, local and state officials, and industry advocates all brimming with a mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm to witness history – the State’s first licensed marijuana businesses.

The day started with approving the agenda and then came to a screeching halt as one board member made an unusual motion – Mark Springer, the MCB’s rural representative, pulled a yellow legal pad loose piece of paper from his breast pocket and read from it word for word.  Springer called for an executive session, citing AS 44.62.310(c)(1) & (2) as his reasons for making the motion.  AS 44.62.310(c)(1) & (2) provides for a board to have a special meeting, with no members of the public present, without violating open meeting laws. Subsections (1) and (2) are justifiable reasons for calling the executive session:

(c) The following subjects may be considered in an executive session:

(1) matters, the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the public entity;

(2) subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any person, provided the person may request a public discussion.

Id.(Emphasis Added). After Springer’s motion, the entire audience was asked to vacate the room in order to give the five (5) member board the privacy it requested.  After almost an hour and half, the executive meeting finally ended.  All five board members looked visibly flustered as well as the Executive Director and Assistant Attorney General who is tasked with being the legal representation on the board.  No disclosure was made to the public as to the matters discussed during the executive session and no action was taken during executive session – the contents of the session will likely remain confidential to the public.

Thereafter, the meeting progressed and Chair Schulte, industry representative, was voted out of his chair position by a motion from Peter Mlynarik, the Chief of the Soldotna Police Department and the Public Safety seat on the Board. Mlynarik nominated himself, and then Springer requested that the vote for chair between Mlynarik and Schulte be done by voting anonymously by each board member writing the name of either Mlynarik or Schulte on a piece of paper.  The vote was 2-3 in favor of Mlynarik.  The election of a new chair was not publically noticed on the agenda. The change in chairmanship was not welcomed by the industry as Schulte has been a strong advocate for the marijuana industry – but the change does give Schulte more flexibility to make motions and take stances on controversial issues – so in that sense it could actually be beneficial for the industry as a whole.

Finally, the MCB got to the important stuff – reviewing and granting licenses.  The MCB called each applicant up, questioned them from topics ranging from language in their ID checking policies for visitors to the company’s waste disposal plan.

The first two licenses granted were to CannTest, LLC and AK Green Lab, LLC – the first and so far, only completed testing law applications received by the State.

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Thereafter, RCFC, LLC, dba Rosie Creek Farms, was the first standard cultivation facility to be approved in the State – and was the first outdoor cultivation establishment considered by the MCB.  Rosie Creek Farms, that same day, was also approved by the Fairbanks North Star Borough – making this company the first locally and state approved marijuana establishment in the State.

Some applications were “tabled” due to lack of information, adequate waste plan, adequate visitor plan, and/or if their establishment is located in a locality that has a moratorium on the ballot to opt out of the commercial marijuana business, those licensed applications were tabled as well.

The mood after the conclusion of the second day of license approvals was twofold – on one hand there was the historic excitement and feelings of dreams slowly shifting into reality, but on the other hand, there was a nagging negative energy that filled the board room before the executive session was called and that same energy seemed to linger till the end of Friday.  Many speculations swirl, faulty assumptions will surely continue to be made – the upside to keeping the dirt discussed at the executive session leads one to question whether it was worth locking the public out of the room during the discussion – distrust in this industry is inherent on both sides – 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 leaves a little too much to the imagination.

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