Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Loren Jones, member of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board, spoke about the recent controversies with the Board as he spoke to the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
Jones serves on the public health seat. Two members of the Board were recently replaced by the Governor Mike Dunleavy.
Industry Representative Brandon Emmett will not be reappointed when his term ends in February. Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt was removed from the board. Emmett will be replaced by Vivian Stiver and Ankerfelt by Lt. Christopher Jaime, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper from Soldotna.
Both Board members had voted in favor of onsite consumption of marijuana at authorized stores. Stiver led an effort in Fairbanks to prohibit marijuana sales. Lt. Jaime will represent law enforcement. He called for sensible regulations for the drug.
Jones, a former substance abuse counselor, and Director of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, is serving his second term on the board.
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal government. This has resulted in a banking problem because they are regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It has also resulted in multiple robberies because it is a cash business.
Credit Union 1 has proposed to provide checking, bill pay, wire transfers, direct deposit for payroll and business to business transactions for marijuana businesses. They plan to serve six businesses in a pilot program and then add another 10 businesses in the future.
“Banking is a real issue. This is a new industry. We’ve done a lot of work to get where we are. This is one step that can better stabilize this expanding industry we have in Alaska.”
The first licenses for testing and cultivation and retail were approved in 2016. There are currently 274 marijuana licenses in the state. 77 are for retail, 96 for standard cultivation, 72 for limited cultivation of less than 500 square feet of grow space, 20 product manufacturers, six concentrate manufacturers and three testing facilities. In addition, there are 39 licenses that are active pending inspection. There are by comparison, 1,900 alcohol licenses in Alaska.
Since inception, some $17.23 million in tax revenue has been collected by the state from marijuana related businesses. In September, 2018 the state collected $1.54 million in marijuana taxes. It's estimated that retail sales from marijuana has exceeded $176 million. The sales in 2018 were just over $117 million.
In Juneau there are no marijuana businesses allowed in residential areas. There is limited cultivation allowed outside the urban service area. Cultivation is allowed in industrial and commercially zoned areas. The CBJ requires a license and an 8 percent sales tax is collected.
So far only Fairbanks has voted to limit the number of marijuana establishments.
“We’ve decided to let the market decide what happens,” Jones added.
There are 15 active and operating marijuana licenses, seven are retail, six cultivation and two manufacturing. There are five in active or pending inspection status. There is one cultivation application that is likely to be reviewed by the state in February.
The CBJ has collected $420,000 in sales taxes from marijuana in 2018. So far in 2019 they have collected $144,000. They expect to collect $800,000 for fiscal year 2020.
Jones said the new rule on onsite consumption is at the Department of Law for review. After that it goes to Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer to ratify and sign the rules. He has 30 days to review the rules.
Alaska would be the first state to allow onsite consumption. The rule said the consumption must be in a separate area from the store that is secured. The state recently approved a smoke free workplace law that would prohibit marijuana smoking.
“If we continue to have a well-regulated industry it will be a thriving industry for Alaska.”