Marijuana board orders Fairbanks manufacturer to close

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board has given the death penalty to one of Alaska’s largest manufacturers of edible marijuana products.

On Friday morning, the board voted to revoke the manufacturing license of Fairbanks-based Frozen Budz, fine the company $500,000 and seize all of its products, including those already on retail shelves.

The vote followed an extensive investigation by the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. That investigation, backed by testimony from former company employees, found Frozen Budz violated multiple state regulations relating to testing, improper labeling, operating out of compliance, producing unapproved products, and failing to track the source of its marijuana.

It’s the first time Alaska’s marijuana board has revoked a license, and Friday’s fine was by far the largest ever approved by the board.

“It’s a new industry, it’s a new process for us, so we haven’t anything of this magnitude,” said board member Mark Springer of Bethel. “I really hope that the rest of the industry and people who are considering joining the industry will view this as the board and the office meaning business.”

The board is normally divided on controverisal topics, but in this case, it voted 4-0 to harshly punish Frozen Budz. Board member Loren Jones of Juneau did not participate in Friday’s telephonic meeting.

Board chairman Peter Mlynarik said the steep fine was warranted by “the amount of violations and the seriousness of them,” and he thinks AMCO investigators made their case well.

“I think that everybody takes it seriously and the people on it are concerned about this type of thing. I don’t think any of the board members wants to see anything that’s going to affect public safety of this nature,” he said.

Mlynarik explained that Frozen Budz’ owners — who did not return phone messages from the Empire — can appeal the decision. An administrative law judge will rule on the board’s action, and the judge’s decision will be brought back to the board for adoption, modification or rejection. If Frozen Budz is unhappy with the board’s final decision, the company’s owners can appeal to Alaska Superior Court.

Erika McConnell, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said by email that Frozen Budz products will be seized from retailers across the state in the next week or two. Those products will be held by AMCO, pending any appeal.

Nick Miller, a member of the marijuana board from Anchorage who represents the industry, declined to comment on the case. Brandon Emmett, the other industry board member, was willing to speak.

He said he hasn’t been shy about advocating for regulations that make it easy for marijuana businesses to operate, and he thinks Friday’s decision says something important for Alaska’s one-year-old commercial industry.

“I think that this sends a message that although we want regulations which are easy to abide to, the businesses have to abide by the regulations that are set, and if someone has a complete disregard for the regulations, then they don’t deserve to be part of this industry,” he said.

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• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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