Two businesses apply for YK Delta's first marijuana retail licenses

Dec 27, 2016

The marijuana business in Alaska is still young and in rural Western Alaska, untested. How state and federal regulations under President-elect Trump will co-exist is still to be seen.

Cannabis bud.
Credit KYUK staff

Two businesses in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta are applying for the region’s first marijuana store licenses: The Green Tree LLC in Bethel, located at 260 C Osage Avenue, and Kuskokwim Enterprises, LLC in Aniak, located at 3 Slough View Drive.

KYUK, Bethel:  Both businesses are in the first week of their three-week required public notice period. The notice informs the public of the businesses’ intent to apply and allows the public to submit comments or objections to their local government, the applicant, and to the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

Once the applications are submitted, the Marijuana Control Board has 90 days to grant or deny a license.

If they do get a license, how the stores would get licensed marijuana or marijuana products, like edibles, are still-to-be-resolved areas of local law. There are no licensed facilities for growing, testing, or manufacturing marijuana in the region, and without a road connecting stores to their products, businesses will rely on airplanes for transporting their merchandise. The catch is that airplanes are under federal jurisdiction, where marijuana is illegal, flying over a state where it’s not.

“Well, all of marijuana is 'operate at your own risk' to some extent," said Cynthia Franklin, Director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. She calls the state’s marijuana industry “risky business.”

“We don’t have any idea how the federal government is going to react to the reality of Alaska, which is that if you want to have a [marijuana establishment] in an area of the state that’s fairly inaccessible, you might be violating federal transportation rules. But keep in mind, everything that we’re doing is federally illegal,” Franklin said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a memorandum saying that, in states that have created robust marijuana regulations, if you are a licensed establishment operating in full compliance with these regulations then you won’t be a priority to prosecute. But it offers no guarantees. 

“If you look at the end," Franklin said, "it sort of disavows everything and says, 'we can still do whatever we want.'”

And the memorandum, as mushy as it is, could disappear under Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney General.

The marijuana business in Alaska is still young and in rural Western Alaska, untested. And with a new administration taking over the Justice Department, how the state and federal regulations will co-exist is still to be seen.