An ‘enemy of the industry’? Gov’s pick for state marijuana board surprises

Vivian Stiver has history of speaking against legalization

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s nomination of Vivian Stiver to the Marijuana Control board came as a surprise to some industry folks.

“We didn’t think he was going to be an enemy to the industry,” Brandon Emmett told the Empire Thursday. Emmett is the current seatholder whom Stiver would take over for should her nomination be confirmed.

[Dunleavy picks shake up board regulating marijuana]

Stiver has a history of speaking against marijuana legalization. She was involved in a failed 2017 effort to ban marijuana operations in Fairbanks. The Fairbanks area has become a prominent growing region for the legal industry.

“I don’t think she represents the desires of the general public in the state, certainly not here in Fairbanks,” Emmett said. “And I don’t think her appointment is consistent with the governor’s desire to reduce crime and create jobs.”

A study in The Economic Journal found that inland state’s with legal marijuana laws lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state. Emmett said this is true for Alaska, too, because before the market was regulated people were simply sending marijuana through the mail or bringing it in by barge or car. But when it’s legal it’s not worth the risk of importing it, people will just go buy it legally at the store, which supports the tax revenue Alaska collects, he said.

Since collecting state tax on marijuana starting in October 2016, more than $20 million was collected for the state through last November, and the City and Borough of Juneau alone took in $512,500 from Jan. 1, 2018 through Nov. 30, 2018, according to the latest figures provided to the Empire from Emily Walker, tax auditor for the Alaska Department of Revenue.

Stiver helped initiate a campaign in Fairbanks for two propositions that would have made cannabis businesses illegal, but around 70 percent of voters rejected those propositions, according to the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner.

Alaskans voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2014, and Stiver said she can’t change that. But she said she can contribute to efforts to move forward in a responsible way. Education is important, she told The Associated Press.

“There are aspects of legalization that aren’t so good, right? I mean, that just can’t be denied,” she said to the AP. “So I want to contribute what I can, the best that I can that people have knowledge, our youth have knowledge, they understand what can happen.”

But Emmett told the Empire her actions in the past mean more to him than the statement she told the media.

“Knowing her track record, I just don’t believe that’s what she’s going to do,” Emmett said. “I think she’s making up that statement to survive the confirmation process. And that she’s going to increase unnecessary regulation and try to stymy the industry any way she can.”

Assembly member and Marijuana Control Board member Loren Jones spoke Thursday at a Chamber of Commerce lunch about the industry, mentioning briefly Stiver’s nomination.

After his presentation, Jones said to the Empire he thinks the nomination will be a “learning process” on working together.

“Every board, every Assembly I’ve served on, we always get new members,” said Jones. “So you go through a learning process. So far in all the changes the governors have made on the board, we’ve done OK. We’ve learned to work together. We’ve learned, yeah, you disagree with me on that one, fine, we’ll still work through the process on the things we agree on.”

But some chamber members in the crowd who are in the industry were more than displeased about the nomination.

“We are very disappointed,” says Lacy Wilcox, manager of THC Alaska, a Juneau-based company that produces cannabis concentrates. “She’s a prohibitionist if I’ve ever seen one.”

Mark Springer, one of the other members of the board who is in the industry, said on Twitter, “Sorry to report that @GovDunleavy has not reappointed Brandon Emmett to the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. Brandon was one of the three remainining original appointees from 2015. His technical knowledge of the industry was always invaluable. #akdopeboard #akpot”

Emmett said he will finish out his appointment until Feb. 28.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@juneauempire.com or 523-2228.


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