Sara Williams ~ In November 2014, 53% of state residents voted in favor of the legalization and regulation of marijuana in the State of Alaska. Over half of the state’s population resides in the city limits and surrounding areas of Anchorage. Anchorage citizens voted in favor of legalized and regulated marijuana.
Now an Anchorage Assembly committee has released their proposed land use and permitting regulations for upcoming licensed marijuana establishments.
There are a number of problems with the proposed regulations but for the sake of brevity we’ll focus on just four glaring problems with the proposal.
Barriers to Entry
The proposed regulation would limit the locations of cultivation and production facilities to only “industrial” zoned areas. While this looks good on the surface it is not small business friendly. First, industrial zoned properties are expensive to build and while the city is making an assumption that marijuana establishments will simply lease or “buy” (also expensive) current industrial building space, this assumption is built on the hopes that owners will approve a federally illegal establishment in that space as a leasee.
This is the first indicator that, if approved, Anchorage only wants “Big Marijuana” with its tremendous financial resources to rule the industry in their city.
Black Market Friendly
Once again, the proposed regulation that moves all cultivation to industrial zoning means the Black Market “home grower” will continue to thrive in the city limits of Anchorage. The point of the “Limited Cultivation” license offered by the Marijuana Control Board is to bring the home grower, who all this time has been growing 20, 50, maybe hundreds of plants right under your nose without impacting your life at all, into the legal and regulated market.
By forcing ALL cultivation AND production into industrial areas, the city of Anchorage is openly stating it does not support small business and would rather support an unregulated black market.
It is scientifically proven that cannabis is safer (for health) than alcohol. The responsible adult would likely concur the alcohol user can be significantly more dangerous than the marijuana user. Where, in any current ABC regulations, are alcohol licensees and establishments required to issue “Neighborhood Responsibility Plans?”
Case in point: the Carrs grocery store on Gambell Street. None of these alcohol establishments, whether liquor stores or consumption locations, need to submit a plan delineating “neighborhood outreach, methods for future communication, and dispute resolution” when they apply for a liquor license.
This is neither fair, nor equal in treatment, between to the two industries. If marijuana establishments are required to create a proposed plan and support documentation / rationale, then alcohol establishments need to be held to the same strict “neighborhood responsibility” standard.
Green Light District
This proposed set of regulations would set up a “Green Light District” where all retail stores would be limited to commercial areas and all grow facilities and production facilities would be limited to industrial areas. This is prohibitive to commerce.
What about the person with a commercial bakery that wants to use their facility to create regulated and safe marijuana infused edibles? “Oh I’m sorry, your commercial bakery is not located in an industrial zone so you’ll have to invest more money into another location and another commercial build out of a kitchen.” That’s unacceptable.
The proposed commercial regulations relating to marijuana are NOT small business friendly in any way. They will make it nearly impossible for the entrepreneur with limited resources to actually compete in this new, burgeoning market.
At a time when our state is struggling with a budget crisis we have a brand new industry that will pay millions in taxes and employ thousands of Alaskans. If we can embrace the opportunity, and stop letting fear control our logical business choices, our state could prosper from sustainable, robust commerce.
I recently spent three days at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Las Vegas and witnessed a very sophisticated industry. Marijuana entrepreneurs are NOT criminals but rather visionaries who see a need and are fulfilling in a manner that protect communities and assets from theft.
We have a choice, here and now, to either give this industry latitude and freedom to succeed, or we can overregulate and create a scenario where the black market thrives and only the affluent and big corporations profit, with little afforded or given back to our community.
Sara Williams, CEO Midnight Greenery ~ Sara is the current chair of the Marijuana Advisory Committee for the Mat-Su Borough and a future retail store licensee with Midnight Greenery. She has been actively following the regulatory processes throughout the state and advocates for responsible business regulations for the upcoming cannabis industry. Follow Midnight Greenery on Facebook for information regarding the developing cannabis industry in Alaska at: www.facebook.com/midnightgreenery