CBJ Deputy Mayor Jesse Kiehl gives presentation outlining status of marijuana industry in Juneau

    Deputy Mayor Jesse Kiehl was the guest speaker at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce's weekly luncheon.

    While the State Marijuana Control Board was meeting to discuss regulations on Thursday, Juneau's deputy mayor was presenting on the status of cannabis businesses in the capital city at the Chamber of Commerce's weekly luncheon.

    The state board shied away from "bar" style establishments that serve marijuana, and are instead considering permitting retail stores to sell marijuana in one area, then allowing customers to consume it in another. One benefit to the proposed regulations for those who plan to partake: unused portions of marijuana can be taken out of the establishment, unlike drinks from a bar.

    Other recent news saw Governor Walker sign a bill that establishes the ability for the state to obtain criminal background checks for marijuana business applicants.

    Kiehl discussed the number of potential businesses vying to crack into the nascent marijuana market here in Alaska's capital city.

    "There are four main categories of license: cultivation, product manufacture, testing, and retail," Kiehl explained. "The cultivation license has two subcategories, which are limited and standard. Limited allows 500 square feet of plant canopy, and standard is what the market will bare. So far, we have zero limited cultivators. We do, however, have quite a few folks interested in the standard cultivation license, one of which already has its state license; assuming they went in and got their city license over-the-counter, they should be growing plants and getting prepared to bring marijuana products to marijuana. There are three conditional use permits for standard cultivation granted, another three pending, plus one business that's gone to the state for a license but has not yet sat down with the Community Development Department. When it comes to product manufacturing, we have one permit out and one more pending. Nobody has a conditional use permit for testing yet, but we have three folks that have either begun that process or talked to the city about it. Just on a personal note, I'll be surprised if we can support three testing labs here in Juneau, but we can't support the industry if we don't have at least one."

    A testing facility is mandatory for Juneau to have marijuana businesses operating within the city; transporting the drug over water or by plane is a federal offense.

    Even though the drug is federally illegal, the federal government is turning a blind eye to states that have legalized it - as long as those states follow a few rules.

    "States like Alaska that legalized marijuana did so under the rules set out in a memo by a fellow named James Cole that worked for the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. He basically said, "As long as your state takes care of eight important factors, this is not something Uncle Sam is going to spend time and resources on; you deal with it.""

    According to the memo, if they don't want to be hassled by the feds, states that opt to legalize marijuana must prevent distribution to minors, revenue going to criminal enterprises, transferring weed between states, trafficking other drugs through pot businesses, the use of firearms and violence in sale and cultivation, driving while intoxicated, and growing, using, or possessing marijuana on federal property.

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