Marijuana industry thinks governor trying to undo legalization in Alaska

Call for governor to declare his position on legalized pot

The marijuana industry is not happy with Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Alaskans voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014, but the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association thinks the governor is trying to undo that through his legislation and appointments.

“Under the guise of rolling back a controversial criminal justice bill, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has again shown a lack of regard for the will of Alaskan voters,” stated an AMIA’s press release.

[Juneau marijuana sellers have biggest year yet]

The association said Senate Bill 32, one of the governor’s four proposed crime bills, includes language that would make it a felony to possess 25 or more cannabis plants or various amounts of scheduled VIA drugs (including marijuana concentrates). They said there are no exemptions in the current text of the bill for legal marijuana businesses, leaving small cannabis business owners fearful of what comes next.

“In SB 32 they’re trying to take possession of a small amount of marijuana,” said AMIA Executive Director Cary Carrigan in an interview with the Empire. “I don’t know how they’re going to determine if something is what you bought or something that is illegal.”

AMIA leaders are calling for clarity in the language of the bill that it will not affect licensed operations.

“If this was unintentional, we expect a quick fix from the Dunleavy administration,” said Carrigan in a press release. “Gov. Dunleavy has long aligned himself with the concept of states’ rights yet seems to make an exception when it comes to marijuana.”

The association’s press release said the AMIA is looking into the potential legal issue this bill might cause if the language is not amended to clarify exemption for licensed operations.

“We are looking into the potential legal issue of undoing the people’s vote through legislation and any constitutional implications that may arise,” said Lacy Wilcox, legislative liaison for the AMIA in the press release. “I hope that the Department of Law can work with the Legislature to amend the bill to include specific language that removes ambiguity for law enforcement and alleviates the fears that have arisen in the industry.”

The governor’s appointment of Vivian Stiver to the Marijuana Control board also caused an uproar in the industry.

“We didn’t think he was going to be an enemy to the industry,” Brandon Emmett told the Empire in previous reports. 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.

The Senate Labor and Commerce committee heard testimonies about her appointment on Tuesday. Carrigan said there were 61 people who testified, 54 of them who spoke against her nomination.

“The fact that Vivian even got this far is bad,” Carrigan said. “If the support is out there for that person you know it, they’re going to show up. We can’t go to a place where it slows the industry down so much that we start losing revenue, losing jobs. If someone puts the brakes on [the industry] that’s going to create a problem where the black market will start to fill back in.”

He said that people at the meeting who testified against her also offered up four to five other names of people who would be more suitable for the position.

“There’s this undercurrent of trying to push back the marijuana industry,” Carrigan said in an interview with the Empire. “But look at the votes. They go 70-30. People want [pot] here. So I just don’t understand.”


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


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