Alaska appoints top cannabis regulator

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has appointed an Anchorage planning official to lead the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office and the Marijuana Control Board.

Erika McConnell, who will start in late March, has worked for the city since 2003 in various roles, most recently in the Office of Economic and Community Development, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported.

While in that role, she had some oversight of Anchorage’s alcohol licensing and created the city’s marijuana land-use code.

However, her cannabis record in Anchorage appears to be a mixed bag.

Jack Tobin, owner of Farmer Jack’s cultivation facility, lauded McConnell for being one of the few people in the city to attend Anchorage Cannabis Business Association meetings.

“She does care what our perspective is,” he told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

But others criticized McConnell as being obstructionist, noting that Anchorage has a lower rate of approved cannabis business licenses than other cities and regions in the state, the newspaper reported. She also is seen as having a high restrictive reputation among industry insiders.

McConnell replaces Cynthia Franklin, who stepped down in January. Sara Chambers was Alaska’s interim cannabis chief.