Alaska lawmakers reject cannabis critic’s appointment to state’s Marijuana Control Board

In what is seen by many in the industry as a victory for Alaska’s cannabis businesses, the state Legislature nixed – by one vote – Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointment of frequent MJ critic Vivian Stiver to the state Marijuana Control Board.

Stiver, who supported a 2017 ballot initiative to ban marijuana operations in Fairbanks, needed 31 votes to be confirmed.

She received only 30, which came as a relief to members of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association (AMIA), a trade group that campaigned against Stiver’s appointment.

For months, the AMIA asked its members to call and write lawmakers to urge them to oppose Stiver.

That outreach appears to have paid off, said Brandon Emmett, the chief operating officer of Good Titrations, a Fairbanks-based concentrates manufacturer.

Changing lawmakers’ mindsets?

Caleb Saunders, CEO of Green Jar, a marijuana retail shop in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, said the vote signals a shift in some lawmakers’ attitudes toward the cannabis industry.

“The Legislature is far more willing now to see that we’re legitimate business owners,” he added.

Cary Carrigan, the executive director of the AMIA, credited the victory to the group’s members and to its legislative liaison.

Carrigan said business owners worked hard to educate lawmakers about the industry – and to make their concerns about Stiver heard.

He added the AMIA’s win can be a lesson for other trade groups.

“Every state in the union is working against 90 years of ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda,” Carrigan said.

“If there’s something everyone can take away from this, it’s that education is paramount to making sure our industry moves ahead.”

On-site consumption critic appointed

Separately, lawmakers did confirm Christopher Jaime’s appointment to the Marijuana Control Board.

Jaime is a lieutenant with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and a former state trooper who has said he’d like to revisit the board’s decision to allow on-site consumption of marijuana at some licensed dispensaries.

Some estimates indicate on-site consumption could net an additional $2.4 million in revenue for Alaska’s marijuana industry.

AMIA chose not to focus its efforts to block Jaime’s appointment: Carrigan said the association was far more concerned with Stiver, whom he has repeatedly called a prohibitionist.

“We’re picking battles where we think we have the best chance of winning,” Carrigan noted.

Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Dunleavy, told Marijuana Business Daily the governor wanted Stiver appointed to the board to give the public a voice in how marijuana in Alaska is regulated.

Regarding the Marijuana Control Board and Stiver’s nomination, Shuckerow said:

“The governor is supportive of business and economic development. His position is not to sway the (marijuana) industry in one direction or the other. He wants to bring representation and balance to the board.”

Not referring directly to the Legislature’s vote on Stiver, Shuckerow said, “There are always board and commission appointees that don’t make it through the confirmation process.”

Who’s next?

Shuckerow added the timeline to appoint another member of the Marijuana Control Board is “fluid.”

Carrigan, Emmett and Saunders said it’s difficult to predict whom the governor will appoint next to the vacant seat on the Marijuana Control Board.

Carrigan said the AMIA plans to provide Dunleavy with a list of candidates it would support, adding there has been little communication among the governor’s office and members of the industry.

“I hope the governor sees this as a message that it’ll be difficult to get a prohibitionist appointed to this seat,” Emmett said.

“I hope he chooses someone from the industry, someone who’s also a known supporter of his, to restore the balance that the board needs.”

Joey Peña may be reached at [email protected]

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