It’s been nearly two years since Alaska legalized marijuana for recreational use, but residents still can’t buy the plant legally. In an Anchorage meeting between the House and Senate Judiciary committees, the state’s chief marijuana regulator expressed optimism that dispensaries would finally be open by next February.
“I believe that by the time we arrive at February of 2017, we will have stores that are operating; we will have product manufacturers that are making products, which have been individually approved by this board – which is a tremendous amount of work; we will have testing facilities that are testing; and we will have a lot of cultivation facilities growing a lot of legal marijuana in Alaska,” said Cynthia Franklin, Director of Alaska’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.
Proponents of the Alaskan cannabis industry have expressed immense dissatisfaction at how long the process has taken. Attorney Jana Weltzin, who represents various clients who own marijuana-related businesses in the state, explained why the lengthy wait has put a strain on finances for the entrepreneurs.
“It has been two years, and I’m getting to the point where some of my clients have been paying rent for a really long time,” Weltzin said.
State lawmakers also offered other possible enhancements such as improved access to banking for marijuana businesses.
Senator Lesil McGuire (R – Anchorage) stated that Alaska should be working with federal regulators to help these businesses to garner banking support, if for no other reason than to advance the industry. McGuire referenced a memo written by James Cole, former Deputy U.S. Attorney General, that stated the feds would not actively pursue marijuana businesses located in states that had legalized the plant. Banks typically cite fear of losing federal funding when justifying their refusal to work with the cannabis industry.
“States who have legalized this have an obligation to set up regulations that provide security and authority and a clear path for banks – lending institutions – in that state to secure a legal pathway for lending,” McGuire said.
Alaska’s Chief Examiner of Banking and Securities Patrick Walsh rebutted the banking solution by pointing out that Congress would have to make an amendment to the current legislature before federally-insured banking institutions would work with marijuana accounts.
“Right now, the Division of Banking and Securities is not aware of any bank or credit union in our state that is willing to bank marijuana businesses at this time, because the businesses are illegal, under federal law,” Walsh said.
Cover Image Courtesy of Wall Street Insanity
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