Alaska Marijuana News
Alaska voters reject local bans on legalized marijuana
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Voters in some parts of Alaska rejected efforts to ban commercial marijuana cultivation and retail sales, three years after the nation’s largest state passed a voter initiative legalizing the recreational use of the drug.
The votes Tuesday came during local elections in the state’s major marijuana growing areas — in and around Fairbanks and on the Kenai Peninsula southwest of Anchorage. All lost by wide margins.
“I’m happy to know that the 100 plus employees that are employed right now are going to keep their jobs, and there’s going to be many more jobs on top of that,” said Amy Jackman, campaign manager for ‘Keep Cannabis Legal’ on the Kenai Peninsula, where the ban was rejected by roughly 64 percent of voters. “And all these families down here, they’re not going to lose their savings and their livelihoods.”
The 2014 statewide initiative that legalized marijuana allows local governments to ban pot businesses within their borders.
“We’re disappointed, but at the same time our purpose for these initiatives on the ballot was to give the voters a chance to make this decision and not have it made by our local government. So in that sense, it’s a success,” said James Ostlind, chairman of the group that backed the bans with separate measures in the city of Fairbanks and the surrounding Fairbanks North Star Borough. Both measures were rejected by about 70 percent of voters.
If the bans had been successful, they would have forced retail stores and cultivation facilities to close within 90 days and that would have left a gaping hole for other retail stores across the state in need of product. Personal use and growing pot at home for that use would still be allowed.
Backers said zoning laws are too lax, letting marijuana businesses open too close to homes. Proponents fear any rollbacks will embolden other communities to institute bans or the Legislature to roll back legalization.
But Jackman said the overwhelming victory in support of the marijuana industry “encourages people to move on to something else.”
Cary Carrigan, the executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, called the victories pivotal.
“A lot of these prohibition votes have been driven by church congregations,” he said “They’re looking for something to demonize, and it’s not us. People accept us.”
After a failed initiative, there’s a two year hiatus before it can come back, Ostlind said. He wasn’t ready to predict another initiative attempt in 2019.
“If the marijuana industry starts to cause more damage to a community than they do good, then people will stand up and they’ll want to do something about it,” he said.
The election was held the same day the Alaska Department of Revenue released its monthly marijuana tax receipts from cultivators. The state collected nearly $700,000 in August, which was the highest monthly amount since collections began last October. Ten new cultivators began paying taxes in August, and half are from areas where votes were being held Tuesday.
Since October 2016, cultivators in the greater Fairbanks area have paid nearly $1.2 million in taxes, while those on the Kenai Peninsula have paid more than $655,000. The state doesn’t have tax figures for retails stores since those taxes are paid to local governments only.
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana. But the historic day passed with little public acknowledgement in a state with a savvy marijuana culture that has seen varying degrees of legal acceptance of the drug for 40 years.
Supporters said the day was a milestone, comparing it to the end of Prohibition. But unlike in Colorado and Washington state, there were no street parties and public smoking displays in Alaska’s biggest cities.
Dolly Fleck-Phelps, a Kenai resident with an ancillary marijuana business, said she thought people would look back on the day as a turning point for Alaska. “Absolutely this is history in the making,” Fleck-Phelps said. “This is the opening of the door. Now it’s time for the real work to begin.”
Legalization marked the end of a 43-year political battle for Bill Parker, 70.
The Anchorage man, who was listed as a sponsor of the initiative, first banded together with a group of young Democrats elected to the state House of Representatives to introduce a legalization bill in 1972. “Gee, there weren’t enough votes to worry about,” the retired deputy commissioner of corrections said.
Parker’s hopes for legal weed dwindled as he saw Alaska become more Republican and more conservative over the years. He said perhaps the marijuana vote marks the end of that pendulum swing.
Alaskan Lawmakers need to reread marijuana initiative and trust the voters
Everywhere across Alaska, politicians are standing up and claiming Alaskans didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing when they voted to legalize marijuana. Yet, the ballot measure’s title, without ambiguity, describes the scope of the initiative to “tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana in Alaska.” The proposition went on to define and delineate each of those three elements: production, sale and use.
Already politicians and regulators are reinterpreting the new marijuana law to mean what they want it to. As the question appeared on the ballot, the initiative specifically allows validly registered entities and persons to sell marijuana subject to certain restrictions. But, regulators are referring to licensing commercial marijuana businesses rather than registering them as specified on the ballot. At first blush, the difference may seem trivial, but it is not. The difference is important and will dictate the success or failure of our new law in eradicating the black market for marijuana.
In Black’s Law Dictionary, the dictionary our courts turn to when deciding points of law, the definitions of those two words, “registration” and “license,” are pages long. In more common dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster, “registration” means “the act or process of entering information about something in a book or system of public records” while the word “license” means “a permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful.” Just as Alaskans didn’t need their government’s permission to vote on the new marijuana law, that new law says we don’t need our government’s permission to grow and sell marijuana. We just need to meet basic requirements laid out by regulators and to tell the government what we’re doing.
According to a recent news story in the Alaska Dispatch News, Cynthia Franklin, the director of the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, is already using the word license rather than registration. And House Bill 59 introduced by Rep. Paul Seaton, of Homer, seeks to amend the new law in part by replacing the words “register” and “registration” with “license.”
The original HB 59, which Rep. Seaton pre-filed last January before the legislature convened, did not make the distinction between registration and license, but ostensibly sought to delay legalization and regulation of marijuana concentrates for a year. Rep. Seaton said his goal was to give regulators more time to address unforeseen consequences of concentrated forms of marijuana. Yet Franklin has repeatedly told legislators that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board can ready regulations on marijuana concentrates in time to meet the deadline established in the new law.
Job Growth in the Cannabis Industry by leafhead
Cannabis boom in 2014: 2014 was a banner year for medical marijuana legislation and 2015 looks to be another year filled with legalization, decriminalization and the expansion of the medical marijuana business. In the state of Colorado $573 Million was spent on medical marijuana with $60 Million collected in taxes whereas in Washington $64 Million was spent on medical marijuana with $15 Million collected in taxes. Is there any wonder why the job economy has also raised in those states? $8 Million was given to marijuana and cannabis research, Alaska and Oregon passed legislation as well as Washington D.C.
Job Growth for Medical Marijuana Workers10,000+ new jobs were created last year with only half of the country having legalized or passing medical marijuana legislation. Considering that 3 new states passed legislation and 6 more states are in play in the coming year the potential for job growth has become exponential. With a total of 4 states out of the 23 legalized states having specific amendments to include recreational smoking and use of cannabis the markets for jobs and career growth has grown as well. The projections made about the industry include nearly $10 Billion in revenue for marijuana-legal states within the next three years and if more states are added to that list the growth in the economy could be even more substantial.
Investment Trading in the Coming Year With the release of the breaking story about Founders Fund investing in Privateer Holdings Inc. opens up a new era in the legitimacy of cannabis entrepreneurship. Larger more privatized firms will take the cue from Founders Fund to begin investing within other businesses in the cannabis industry. Ancillary services are growing every day in the industry and with the existing infrastructure for pot only being developed within the last couple years the time for job growth through investment capital has finally come. The states that stand to make the greatest benefit through medical marijuana jobs are those that didn’t have an infrastructure for manufacturing and growing of cannabis. States such as Alaska and Oregon’s amendments included recreational provisions thus making the demand for medical marijuana greater. Through legalization the economy expands to create new businesses, more jobs and careers, and more tax revenue as a result of sales.
Weed Entrepreneurs In Oregon And Alaska Celebrate Legalization – More Cannabis Jobs!
On Tuesday, marijuana prohibition suffered another defeat.
Voters in Washington, D.C., Oregon and Alaska followed Colorado and Washington in voting to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The historic votes signal victories for pro-legalization advocates hoping to bring legal cannabis to even more states in 2016.
Cannabis entrepreneurs in Oregon and Alaska, which are slated to open retail pot shops in coming years, say they are thrilled. (D.C.’s measure did not legalize the sale of marijuana.)
“I’m very excited. I’ve been medicating with marijuana since I was 21 years old,” said Mario Mamone, who owns the medical marijuana dispensaryMaritime Cafe in Clackamas County, Oregon, and who suffers from back spasms dating to the late 1960s when he was a soldier in Vietnam.
“I’ve always been afraid I’d be arrested and thrown in jail. But this lifts the stigma,” he said.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses for the marijuana industry that’s developing in the Pacific Northwest. Cannabis entrepreneurs say the way legal weed is being rolled out by state governments can be problematic. Their concerns add to the growing pains experienced by advocates and regulators in trying to figure out the best way to safely regulate the fledgling industry.
For example, Oregon’s historic vote on Tuesday won’t do much to get Mamone’s dispensary back in business. Maritime Cafe, which is located a few miles from downtown Portland and began providing Oregon residents with medical weed in 2011, was forced to close earlier this year when Clackamas County enacted a moratorium on cannabis sales.
“It’s put us through some hardship,” said Mamone. “We signed a lease on a new, bigger space next door [to our current location] before the moratorium, because we had no idea it was coming.”
Mamone said he’s been paying his $3,100-a-month rent plus all his bills every month, but the business “hasn’t had any revenue since May.”
He’s been talking to county officials to try to lift the moratorium as soon as possible — before the scheduled April 2015 end date — but his business may have to remain shuttered until then.
Meanwhile in Portland, just a few miles away, medical weed is already being sold freely by dozens of medical dispensaries. Under the new law, those dispensaries will be eligible for a license to sell retail pot.
But not all of them are interested in doing that. Sally Bishop, the owner of Green Goddess Remedies, a shop that sells marijuana buds, edibles and THC concentrates, isn’t sure she wants to branch out into the retail market, even though it could be lucrative for her and her family.
That’s because she fears the retail weed industry will lead to lower-quality pot.
“Retail changes the vibe. It becomes mass consumption. It turns into, like, Budweiser beer,” said Bishop, a 49-year-old mother of two. “Whereas, here on the medical marijuana side of things, we have more of a microbrew mentality. Our growers take a lot of pride in what they do.”
Oregon’s new law will allow anyone 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of weed in a public place or 8 ounces at home. But there won’t be recreational pot shops in Oregon for another couple of years. The state first must figure out how the system will be regulated and begin the process of issuing licenses to eligible entrepreneurs.
Unlike Washington, Oregon already had a fairly robust medical marijuana system in place when it legalized recreational weed. The state decriminalized pot back in the ’70s and legalized it for medical use in 1998. Still, for years, medical patients had to grow their own weed (or have a caregiver grow it for them). Actual medical dispensaries weren’t fully authorized to do business until this year.
Since Oregon already has a medical pot system in place — and because taxes in Oregon will be lower than they currently are in Washington — retail pot in Oregon is projected to be substantially cheaper than in neighboring Washington. In Oregon, it’s predicted to be about $145 per ounce, while in Washington it gets sold for about $20 a gram, which works out to be over $500 per ounce.
In Alaska, things are different. Although the state legalized medical marijuana the same year Oregon did — 1998 — it never set up a dispensary system, forcing people to make arrangements to grow their own weed or obtain it on the black market.
As a result, Alaska may face some of the same difficulties that Washington has had in trying to create a dispensary system from scratch.
But pot entrepreneurs in the Last Frontier are still excited. “This is great for Alaska and great for America,” said Michael Smith, who owns The Healing Center Medical Clinic in Anchorage, which doesn’t sell medical marijuana but instead helps people obtain state-issued cards that let them grow their own.
Smith, 49, says he will definitely be applying for a state license to sell retail weed, but he won’t be doing it in Anchorage, where he said he’s heard talk of a possible moratorium on pot sales.
“You never know what politicians might do, what kind of pressure they could get from their constituencies,” he said. “I mean, the vote here in Alaska was only 52 to 48 [percent], so it was a very close call. There’s still a large demographic that could push against this.”
Alaska’s initiative doesn’t allow local governments to criminalize marijuana, but it does allow them to ban the commercial industry.
So Smith bought a space in rural Alaska — in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, to be precise — where he plans to grow and sell recreational weed if he wins a license from the state. He said he’s less afraid of a moratorium happening there.
“It’s a little more liberal there than in Anchorage,” he said. “They have a history up there of growing some well-known strains [of cannabis]. I mean, they’ve been growing Matanuska Thunderfuck since the ’70s. So I think people up there are really going to come out to take advantage of the end of prohibition. And I wish everyone well, I really do.”
Voters back legal marijuana in Oregon, Alaska, Washington, D.C.
Charlo Greene made quite an exit.
On Sunday, the KTVA Anchorage reporter dropped a bombshell (and an F-bomb!) when she announced live on-air that she was quitting her job to focus on legalizing marijuana in Alaska.
Charlo’s announcement came immediately after a story on the Alaska Cannabis Club, the “only medical marijuana resource” in the region, according to its website. According to the club’s website, they do not distribute marijuana directly, but they do “connect medical marijuana cardholders in need to medical marijuana cardholders with green :)”
After the segment, Charlo told viewers, “Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska.”
But the kicker? “And as for this job,” she said, “well, not that I have a choice but, f–k it, I quit.”
Charlo shrugged and walked off camera before KTVA, a CBS affiliate, cut to its shocked anchor back at the desk, who apologized “for that” and threw to a commercial. News director Bert Rudman later issued a statement on behalf of the program, saying, “We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.”
Charlo later told Alaska Dispatch News her employer had no idea she was going to quit or that she was affiliated with the Alaska Cannabis Club. When asked why she made her exit in such a dramatic way, she said, “Because I wanted to draw attention to this issue. And the issue is medical marijuana. Ballot Measure 2 is a way to make medical marijuana real…most patients didn’t know the state didn’t set up the framework to get patients their medicine.”
The bill, according to Alaska.gov, would regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana in the state, allowing adults 21 and older “to possess, use, show, buy, transport or grow set amounts of marijuana, with the growing subject to certain restrictions.”
Charlo is encouraging voters across the state to vote yes to the statewide legalization of recreational marijuana. The Alaska Cannabis has started an IndieGogo fundraising page to help effort campaign costs.
In a YouTube video titled “Why I Quit,” Charlo further explained her decision to refocus her efforts. She also urged others to share “your own ‘my marijuana’ story,” showing, “that we smokers are responsible, contributing members to society.”
Alaskans can cast their votes on Ballot Measure 2 on Nov. 4, 2014.