On June 1, the Alaskan Cannabis industry had our second Marijuana Control Board (MCB) meeting of the year, held quarterly in each judicial district of Alaska. This meeting we found ourselves in downtown Anchorage – in the same building, just floors below where the Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office (AMCO) is located. These are the meetings that change the trajectory of the Alaskan Cannabis industry – and since there are a limited number of meetings each year – it’s imperative to attend and share your ideas and opinions with the MCB via public comment. This is how we create positive change for everyone, from owners to consumers. You would be surprised how often the simplest of comments open dialogue that makes positive change in our industry.
This meeting we passed some very exciting regulations and had some new regulation projects opened. After over a year of deliberation and with many of us owners biting our nails in anticipation, drive-thru regulation finally passed! While the next step is for the regulation to go through the Department of Law, be on the lookout in the next couple of months for drive-thru dispensaries opening up. The most important tip for your first trip is to be sure all passengers in your vehicle are over the age of 21 – with the exception of children to whom you are a legal guardian. With that said, life just got a little easier for many of us Cannabis consuming parents. Thank you, MCB! However, I do think in the future my public comment will ask the board to consider allowing us to bring our children into retail storefronts. Alaskans voted in 2014 to regulate marijuana like alcohol – and if I’m able to take my kids into the liquor store and they don’t seem to drop dead from something that can actually kill them – I think we should be able to bring them into our state’s Cannabis shops. I’m hoping my comment will be the seed of change that opens this board up for a future of regulation that is more in line with what we all voted for with Ballot Measure 2.
One of the biggest and most exciting projects opened will potentially reduce the amount of METRC tags required for tracking Cannabis plants. As an industry, we have a huge environmental footprint – more than most consumers realize. We create so much unnecessary waste and as an Alaskan that cares about the future, I’m really excited about this project. Do we really need a tag on a plant once it hits eight inches? Certainly not. Many plants are culled before they ever hit 36 inches. If it’s not providing any public health or safety benefits, why keep archaic regulations that were created by a board in fear of the what-ifs, and in guidance from a tracking system that is looking to make every nickel and dime off of us? And when I say ‘us’ – I mean all of us – because at the end of the day this affects the consumer, too. We’ve proved we’re an upstanding industry and to this day, these tags haven’t helped enforcement enforce anything. So … let’s get rid of them! One public comment from the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association (AMIA) changed this, creating a much brighter future with significantly less trash.
Additionally, a topic that continues to pop up in the MCB meetings is that of license caps. There is a lot of argument over how to protect the industry and whether or not it includes the capping of licenses. At this point, I see both sides: I started by feeling that we shouldn’t consider them, and now I can understand the need for license caps – or even just a pause in licensing – while we are in an industry-wide recession. We have big regulation projects that need to be addressed promptly before the current regulations do more damage. The alcohol industry just went through a full rewrite and that seems to be the future for the marijuana industry as well.
After listening to hundreds of hours of MCB meetings, I have to say that this is one of the most industry-friendly boards we have ever had. AMCO, owners and MCB members all feel as though we are finally on the same team. We are striving for a better future together and it’s coming! Stay tuned for what’s around the corner, and last but certainly not least – congratulations to all of the new owners out there! Welcome to the industry, and prepare yourselves for the wild ride that is legal Alaskan Cannabis.