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Alaska’s First Recreational Marijuana Retail Store Opens

Two years after recreational marijuana was legalized in Alaska, a cannabis retailer has opened its doors.

The very first retail marijuana store in Alaska has opened, nearly two years after voters passed a measure to legalized adult use cannabis. More than 250 people lined up outside Herbal Outfitters in the city of Valdez for the grand opening on October 29, ABC News reports.

“It’s a historic moment,” said Richard Ballow, owner of Herbal Outfitters. “I feel like I am blessed and honored to be a part of this.”

Two more marijuana retail stores, both in the city of Fairbanks, are on schedule to open in early November. Earlier estimates had projected that recreational marijuana wouldn’t become available to purchase until February 2017.

Alaska’s first marijuana testing laboratory had just cleared regulatory requirements and opened for business earlier in the week. Cannabis growers and retail outlets had only been waiting for the testing process to get underway. With the opening of the new laboratory – CannTest, located in Anchorage — the market cleared its final hurdle.

Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Under Alaska’s marijuana law, cannabis must be tested at a state-licensed laboratory for purity and potency. The Marijuana Control Board requires that marijuana flower is tested for the concentration of five cannabinoids. To ensure the marijuana products are safe, they will be checked for E. coli bacteria and mold, which can develop if the marijuana isn’t dried properly. The testing takes about 72 hours per 4-gram sample, and costs $80 to test for potency and $150 for microbial. Marijuana flowers, concentrates and edibles will be tested.

“Customers definitely want to know what they’re getting,” said Mark Malagodi, chief executive officer of CannTest, LLC. “They have to know, themselves, the kind of experience they want, what it is they’re going to be using.”

CannTest had been granted a cannabis-testing license June 9. An inspection by an outside reviewer was required before the laboratory could open for business. Regulations require that the laboratory install a security system with video surveillance. Malagodi has said there’s already a big backlog of product waiting to be tested.

CannTest officially opened for business October 24 and by 10:30 am that morning had already taken in 15 samples from two cultivators.

Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2 to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2014, but the program has been plagued with red-tape delays that have severely slowed it from getting off the ground. Under the law, adults that are aged 21 and older can possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana at home or inside a vehicle.

“I’m happy that things are actually going to be going. I know that people felt that it took a long time to get started but we are here now,” Malagodi said. “Now we can just move forward.”

Alaska’s Department of Revenue estimates that the legal recreational market will bring in between $5.1 million and $19.2 million in tax revenue per year. The law set a $50 per ounce excise tax to be paid by a cultivator when the cannabis is transferred to a retail store.

Learn more about Alaska’s cannabis laws by visiting our education page.