We’re now almost halfway into the year and things are really starting to take off as far as getting things ready for retail marijuana to go on sale in Alaska. The Alaska Marijuana Control Board got together for the first time this week with the intention of licensing the first cultivation and testing facilities in the state. Currently, there are 30 completed applications for businesses that fall under the category of cultivation and testing facilities, and many more waiting for other licenses.
The first to complete the application was a man named Bryant Thorp, who hopes to open a small boutique grow house with top-quality marijuana in smaller quantities. “I was the first one deemed complete by the state, which was a huge thing,” he said. “Everybody’s all like, ‘When are they going to finish this? When are they going to get it done?’ And I was the first one they got there.” After obtaining a state license, Thorp will still need a special use permit from the municipality in order to operate.
Thorp’s boutique is only one of many businesses waiting to see whether or not their licenses will be awarded. After being reviewed by the board, the businesses will still need to complete a 60-day protest period, where any reasonable objections to the application can be considered. However, they may find a way to approve the licenses and have staff take care of the final issuing of licenses, so they will not need to convene for an additional meeting.
Five of the businesses up for review this week are located in Fairbanks, and they have a unique set of challenges. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly also held a hearing and review of the potential marijuana businesses in the area. The code offered by the borough does not define any criteria for evaluating marijuana businesses however, which could make it difficult for a fair assessment to be made.
“The only real criteria are that the operation must be consistent with our zoning, and we must have non-arbitrary reasons for rejecting it,” said John Davies, presiding officer of the assembly.
Unfortunately, the state will look at protests from the local level (as a part of the 60-day protesting period) and that can make an impact on the final decision. For Fairbanks entrepreneurs hoping to break into the industry this could be bad news as Assemblyman Lance Roberts has said that he is preparing motions to protest all the applications.
“Some of these are in residential neighborhoods that are not zoned residentially,” he said. “I am protesting those facilities on that ground.”
Along with believing that applicants have chosen poorly as far as real estate, he claims that he reasoning is concerns about traffic and what could happen to the waste from cultivation facilities. He says, “I think there is going to be a real danger from the leftovers,” but there are definitely ways that businesses can use the “leftovers” so that not only will they not waste any product, but throwing it away outside would hardly be a problem.
Hopefully Roberts’ protest will not cause potential business to lose a shot at being a part of the growing industry. It seems that, for the most part, things are underway for Alaskans and they should be prepared for their industry to open up at the start of next year. Once licenses are approved, all that is left is getting them set up in the seed-to-sale system and an inspection of the property and then the first seeds will finally be planted.