Fireweed Factory gets state marijuana license approval

Fireweed Factory LLC has become the second Juneau marijuana business to receive the state’s blessing.

On Friday afternoon, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board voted unanimously in favor of an application from a handful of capital city entrepreneurs to open a marijuana cultivation facility on Airport Boulevard.

The business was originally intended for a site on North Douglas Highway, but after neighbors objected, backers picked a site in the industrial area near Juneau International Airport.

Fireweed Factory has already received a conditional use permit from the City and Borough of Juneau planning commission and needs only to pass a few procedural hurdles to begin growing commercial marijuana.

Fireweed Factory was the only Juneau business among many approved this week as the marijuana board concluded a two-day meeting in Fairbanks. As of July 1, according to figures provided by the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control office, 373 marijuana business license applications have been started.

Five licenses are active and in use; another 18 are awaiting the final sign-off by AMCO executive director Cindy Franklin.

One of the five active licenses belongs to Rainforest Farms, the only other Juneau business to complete the process of licensure.

In addition to Rainforest Farms and Fireweed Factory, AMCO records three other marijuana cultivators seeking licenses in Juneau. There also are two prospective marijuana testing labs and three prospective marijuana product manufactures. These figures include only businesses that have officially opened the license process, not businesses that have just mentioned an interest in seeking a particular license.

“We’re very happy and pleased,” said Paul Disdier by phone from Fairbanks, where he testified in person on behalf of Fireweed Factory. He was joined by his son, James.

The elder Disdier said the business next needs to get a building permit to renovate the warehouse that will house Fireweed Factory’s growing operation. Once that work is done and approved by the fire marshal, the state will come through and perform a final inspection. When that happens, Friday’s vote by the marijuana board gives Franklin the authority to grant Fireweed Factory a license.

The company plans to seek a retail store in downtown Juneau, Disdier said, in order to sell the marijuana it grows.

The other backers of the project, according to the license application, are Michael Stark, Shane Quigley, Kimberlee Wear, Joseph Lilly, Bob Banghart, Callahan Dillon and William Lomax.

The marijuana board has been approving marijuana cultivation and testing facilities before it begins approving retail stores. Only when stores open will Alaskans be able to purchase marijuana. The first store licenses are not expected until the board meets in September.

In other business, the board voted to allow new businesses to have six nonflowering “mother plants” already on site when they receive a state license. Having mother plants allows businesses to clone plants more easily, cutting time off the cultivation cycle.

The board also voted 3-2 to give marijuana control enforcement officers the ability to prosecute non-licensees. As Franklin explained, “this is the authority to shut down illegal competition with our licensees.”

If an illegal marijuana business opens in competition with the legal industry, AMCO officers will have the ability to shut it down.

“We’ve yet to receive a complaint of abusing that authority (with alcohol),” said James Hoelscher, AMCO’s enforcement supervisor. “With your vote of confidence, we will continue down that path.”

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