The clock is ticking on cannabis policy in Alaska. By November 24th, the Marijuana Control Board will finalize statewide regulations for the marijuana industry — and now is the time for the public to weigh in on the fine print.
The Marijuana Control Board – which is writing the regulations – is in Anchorage for a two day meeting. And there is some Sitka representation in the form of Aaron Bean. He’s a lifelong resident and hopeful business owner. Bean said, “I’m going to be owning a marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility in Sitka in the near future.”
To view a draft of the regulations, click here.
A future that remains foggy, given that the regulations are still in draft form. One clause of particular concern to Bean limits potency. The draft says that marijuana concentrates and products cannot be sold if they contain a THC content over 76 percent. Bean said that language is not only too vague, but not a high enough concentration for edibles. He noted that in testimony today, manufacturers said that when rendering marijuana products at home, that THC content is closer to 80 percent.
Another hot button topic is the status of social clubs. Since social clubs are not included as a license type under Alaska’s marijuana statutes, the board can’t make regulations.
The four types of licenses the state can regulate are for cultivation, retail, manufacturing, and testing.
Bean felt, however, that there weren’t any testing facilities in Sitka that could meet the state’s parameters and that might stifle the industry. He said, “After I cultivate, I can’t [legally] take that product and throw it on the plane and bring it to the valley or Anchorage, wherever the state has a lab, and give it back to me. That’s the biggest problem I think, not just for Sitka or any community not on the road system, but for the industry as a whole.”
As with alcohol, the draft regulations allow for local municipalities to create their own zoning rules about where cannabis entrepreneurs can open up shop. But the board is putting it’s foot down on one thing: licenses will not be given to businesses within 500 feet of a school, a recreation or youth center, a building in which religious services are regularly conducted, or a correctional facility.
500 feet is about the length of 1 ⅓ football fields. But what does that look like in Sitka space? I went to find out and discovered it’s about the length from the doorstep of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral to the totem pole in Totem Square. But I also discovered something else?
Heading back to the radio station now, but as I’m driving there is not a single business in the downtown area that does not cater to kids in some way. I’m passing two churches, Pacific High School, child care center, up the road is Baranof Elementary School…so a business under these regulations could really only exist out the road.
Bean said that although the 500 foot perimeter is contentious, he doesn’t take issue with it at all. In fact, he supports it. “We need to do what we can to be responsible, to keep this away from children and out of their eyes. We don’t want to attract any child to the market,” he said.
Bean does however, object to the board’s ongoing conversation about prohibiting advertising and branding for marijuana businesses, saying, “We should be able to [advertise]. I should be able put my name out there on a sign, a logo, a sweatshirt or something – no different than a brewing company.”
The board will take written comment on the draft until November 11 and publish its written regulations on November 24.
Today (10-16-15), the public can comment on the marijuana regulations draft at the Legislative Information Office from 1:30 p.m. until 2 p.m. Citizens will have three minutes to speak through teleconference.