Marijuana board says no to Outside investment

Alaska’s marijuana industry will remain restricted to Alaskans, at least for the time being.

After a warning from the state Department of Law, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board declined to vote Tuesday on a proposal that would have allowed Outside residents to own up to 12.5 percent of a marijuana business in Alaska.

Instead, the board’s only action in a special Tuesday meeting was to reverse an action it took on Nov. 20. In that earlier meeting, the board voted 3-2 to set the definition of an Alaska resident as someone eligible to vote in the state.

That definition effectively loosened restrictions on state ownership of marijuana busineses. All that is needed to meet the standard is an Alaska address and no other voter registration in the United States.

“The problem with that is that it’s really hard and time-consuming for staff,” said Bruce Schulte, chairman of the marijuana board.

Instead, the board decided to define an Alaskan as someone eligible for a Permanent Fund Dividend. That eligibility is already determined by the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend Division, and checking it is easier than examining voting records in 49 other states.

The board has received numerous public comments from Alaskans interested in opening marijuana businesses but concerned about their ability to raise start-up capital. Many entrepreneurs have requested the board relax its restriction on out-of-state investment.

“Public feedback has indicated a desire for at least limited out-of-state investment,” said board member Brandon Emmett.

Thus far, the board has been unable to find a way to balance that request with the requirement that Alaska’s marijuana industry have no ties with organized crime.

When Emmett proposed allowing up to 12.5 percent Outside investment, he was shut down by Alaska Assistant Attorney General Harriet Milks, who said that idea hadn’t been part of the public notice for Tuesday’s meeting.

“The public had no notice you would be discussing percentage of ownership interest,” she said.

Actions taken without prior public notice might be considered illegal and thrown out in court.

After Milks’ objection, Emmett withdrew his proposal.

Schulte said he expects the issue to return in February, when the board is expected to meet in Juneau.

Loren Jones, a marijuana board member and member of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, said he agreed with Milks’ objection and doesn’t have any interest in reopening the idea of Outside ownership.

“I don’t have any interest in making any changes,” he said.

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