Recent appointments and proposed changes by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to a state regulatory board has some in the legal cannabis industry confused about his intentions, but a spokesman said Wednesday the first-term Republican has no intention of changing the fact that broad use of marijuana is legal in Alaska.
Spokesman Matt Shuckerow also said that Dunleavy has no desire to push the industry in one direction or the other.
Dunleavy has made new appointments to the five-member Marijuana Control Board even as he plans to propose repealing its existence.
His appointment of Vivian Stiver, a marijuana critic, has riled industry members who have cast her as a prohibitionist. Stiver would replace Brandon Emmett, who is one of two industry representatives on the five-member board. State law allows up to two seats to go to industry representatives though one of the seats could go to a member of the general public.
The board began a three-day meeting Wednesday in Juneau. Voters in 2014 approved legalizing the use of recreational marijuana by those 21 and older.
Shuckerow said repealing the board would require legislative approval and it’s important to have a functioning board as that process plays out. State Commerce Commissioner Julie Anderson has said that Dunleavy intends to propose transferring the board’s responsibilities to the commissioner.
Further details on what Dunleavy is planning are expected when he introduces the repeal legislation, Shuckerow said.
Other states handle cannabis regulation at the agency level, and Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the Marijuana Policy Project, said as long as the agency has a clear mandate and supports the program, everything should be fine.
But Stiver’s appointment has fueled uncertainty in the industry so a proposal like this has left people to “kind of look for the conspiracy,” Lindsey said.
The appointment “calls into question everything that the governor might be trying to do now,” he said.
Stiver and Lt. Christopher Jaime, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper appointed to the board’s public safety seat, are subject to legislative confirmation. Shuckerow has said Dunleavy believes Stiver would bring a valuable perspective to the board.
Lacy Wilcox, who serves on the board of a marijuana business association, said Dunleavy should meet with the industry. She worries the public process that has surrounded rule-making so far could be eroded if the board is repealed.
She and others have raised concerns with language in one of Dunleavy’s crime bills they say would make it a felony to possess 25 or more cannabis plants, which they argue could affect legal growers. Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills has said the provision was not aimed at growers operating under the state’s regulated industry and that the administration is open to clarifying the language.
Chase Griffith, who has a retail store and growing facilities on the Kenai Peninsula, said he’s been confused by Dunleavy’s actions and wants to hear from him.
“We just need to see the details and actually hear his true intent on the cannabis industry in Alaska,” he said, adding later: “I just want him to publicly say how he stands on cannabis because I haven’t heard that myself.”
• This is an Associated Press report by Becky Bohrer.