Will this marijuana board nominee be influenced by governor?

Will this marijuana board nominee be influenced by governor?

Alaska State Trooper would be first board member to earn salary while at meetings

There’s concern from House representatives and marijuana industry professionals that a control board nominee might be influenced by the governor since he’s a state employee.

Chris Jaime is one of two of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s nominees for the five-person control board in charge of regulating the marijuana industry. Jaime is an Alaska Wildlife Troopers lieutenant from Soldotna who’s served with the agency for 18 years. The House Labor & Commerce committee held a hearing Monday to question him.

“You’re a current state employee, so what would be your reaction or your concern, if as a current state employee you were contacted by the governor’s office, for example, when there was a regulation up for consideration, and the governor’s office had a certain perspective on things?” asked Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage. “Would you as a state employee be at all concerned if your position on that didn’t exactly jam with that of the administration?”

Jaime said he thinks he can maintain his autonomy.

LeDoux also pointed out that Jaime is a part of Alaska Public Employees Association, which she said eased her mind about concerns the candidate could be influenced by the governor. She said it makes it harder for the governor to fire him, and provides a sort of firewall to help maintain impartiality.

Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, asked if Jaime was involved in any political campaigns involving marijuana, and Jaime said he has not.

“I’ve never arrested anybody for it,” Jaime said.

During public testimony, residents from around the state expressed concern the nominee was properly vetted.

Greg Eagle, from Kodiak, said it’s important to keep in mind that (marijuana is) a legal business, and the public safety member needs to keep a positive attitude.

“We need people who are up there just to make things work,” Eagle said.

[Marijuana industry thinks governor trying to undo legalization in Alaska]

Cary Carrigan is the executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.

“While the AMIA has not issued testimony, we do think there is some cause for concern,” Carrigan said, noting that Jaime could be directly influenced by the governor since he is a state employee.

“If there’s not some way to guarantee a firewall to protect him, there’s no real way to assure that the action Jaime would take could be shielded from the governor. We want to make sure that (board members are) impartial.”

The chair of the committee had some follow-ups to Carrigan’s comments.

“The other point that Mr. Carrigan made is the proposal that the alcohol board and marijuana board be disbanded and the duties of these boards be in the hands of the commissioner. Do you have a position on this proposal?” Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, asked.

“That’s the governor’s choice to do that or not,” Jaime says.

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, asked if he’s on the state clock when he’s attending meetings and how it would impact his post. There was chatter after the meeting that Jaime would be the first person to ever receive a salary while sitting on the board since it’s a volunteer board.

House Labor & Commerce passed his nomination through the committee and recommended it be taken to a vote in a joint session at a later date.

Controversial nominee Vivian Stiver is set for a hearing at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Capitol. She’s drawn fire from the industry as being a ‘enemy of the industry.’ 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.

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

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