Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board finally awarded business licenses to selected marijuana retailers, nearly two years after voters legalized adult use cannabis.
Alaska’s adult use marijuana market is one step closer to being up and running, after the Alaska Marijuana Control Board approved the state’s first marijuana retail stores on September 9. The very first license went to Destiny and Nick Neades’ Frozen Budz cannabis storefront in Fairbanks, which is currently under construction and expected to open sometime in October.
“I don’t even know, it’s amazing,” Destiny Neade said following the approval. “We’re excited, we’re ready to open and ready to bring the voter initiative to life.”
The crowd in attendance of the Marijuana Control Board’s two-day meeting at the University of Alaska Anchorage applauded and cheered following the unanimous approval of the Neades’ shop. The five-person board then proceeded to approve 11 additional marijuana licenses throughout the state. Applications for five additional retailers were still outstanding when the meeting came to a close, but the board has a follow-up session to address those already scheduled.
With the Neades’ shop already being approved by the Fairbanks North Star Borough, once construction is completed, it is then free to undergo two state inspections. Then, the Neades will focus on finding a marijuana manufacturer and determining where their marijuana will be tested.
At the meeting, the board also approved four marijuana-manufacturing facilities. It had already approved the state’s first cultivation facilities in June and the licenses were distributed in July. The state’s first-ever commercial marijuana harvests are now underway, with 12 commercial cultivation facilities up and running.
“We’ve got probably over half our crop already dried and partly cured,” Alaska marijuana grower Leif Abel recently told Alaska Dispatch News.
Alaska voters legalized recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older in 2014, and while the law took effect in February 2015, it’s taken the board a year and a half to establish the industry’s rules and get the program off the ground. Measure 2 allows adults to use and carry 1 ounce of marijuana at home or in a vehicle.
The awarding of retail licenses is a significant milestone for the slow rollout of the voter-approved program.
“Everything seems really real right now. I’m opening this door and I’m really going to be infusing marijuana and making edibles,” Neade told CBS affiliate KTVA. “All the plans we’ve made are going to happen now that we’ve been approved.”
Another potential delay to the program, however, is a lack of state-licensed testing facilities. All marijuana is required to be tested by a lab before being available for retail. As of now, just two labs – CannTest and AK Green Labs — are nearing completion. They’re expected to open in mid-October and November, respectively.
The three additional states with active adult use marijuana programs – Colorado, Oregon and Washington, experienced record-breaking marijuana sales and tax revenue. Reports published earlier this year have projected the legal U.S. marijuana industry to reach $21.8 billion to $44 billion by 2020. Under Alaska’s Measure 2, a $50 per ounce excise tax is applied to the sale or transfer of marijuana.
You can keep up with Alaska’s developing marijuana industry on our news feed. Learn more about the nine states that will be deciding on medical recreational marijuana initiatives this November.