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article imageOp-Ed: Alaska governor plans to repeal board regulating marijuana

By Ken Hanly     Feb 21, 2019 in Business
Fairbanks - Mike Dunleavy the governor of the US state of Alaska is intending to introduce legislation that will repeal the two state boards which regulate alcohol and marijuana businesses according to a letter from a commissioner to state employees.
The letter
The letter was from Julie Anderson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The letter said the intent of the repeal was to transfer authority and responsibilities of the two boards to the commissioner and remove the two boards. The repeals are part of the governor's move to reduce the close to $1.6 billion deficit of the state.
Responsibilities of the two boards
The two boards are responsible for licensing, enforcement, and inspection of businesses in the two areas. They both hold meetings where members of the public can comment on proposals. Alaska has about 1,900 liquor licenses across the state and there are also about 275 marijuana business fully licensed.
Rationale for the change
Dunleavy's press secretary, Matt Shuckerow said that forthcoming legislation would give more insight into the changes. He said that Dunleavy “is looking to identify business process realignment to better serve Alaskans and streamline areas of duplication. That effort included examining boards that serve similar functions and capacities in order to reduce the regulatory burden and expand entrepreneurialism.”
In his 2020 budget the governor reduces the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office budget by $48,700 with the cuts coming entirely from travel. The document also mentions the governor's intention to scrap the two boards. Board members are paid no salary but receive a per diem and travel expenses to attend board meetings.
Reaction to the governor's move
CHARR, the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retaier's Association's president and CEO Sarah Oates said: “We’re concerned with how that could be dangerous for business and the public, having one person making decisions about a highly regulated industry.”
She said she hasn’t seen the forthcoming legislation. The present board has five members and has balance Oates claims. There are members not just from specific sectors of the industry but of the general public and health and safety. She thought it was irresponsible to have just one individual responsible for the two highly regulated industries.
The Alaska Marijuana Industry Association's executive director Cary Carrigan claimed that the Dunleavy administration was attempting to destroy the marijuana industry in Alaska. Alaska had voted to make recreational marijuana legal back in 2014. Shuckerow, on the other hand declared that the governor recognized that recreational marijuana is legal in Alaska and that he had no intention of changing that.
A recent article notes: "Dunleavy had previously appointed regulators to the three-person Marijuana Control Board who had a history of supporting cannabis prohibition, which also worried the state’s cannabis industry representatives."
Although Carrigan admitted that the development of marijuana regulations was a bit slow the marijuana board had made sure that the public was satisfied with the regulations. The governor also intends to consolidate investigator positions from the commerce department and others, including the labor department and health into the Department of the Law according to the letter.
Inside the Commerce Dept. there are some investigators who work on marijuana and liquor licenses. Carrigan complained about pooling everything together in that people with the necessary expertise will not be able to focus on the areas where investigation was needed. Both boards had overseen emotional community debates over recent years.
The moves by the governor seems to have saved little from the large $1.6 billion dollar budget while giving the public less input into licencing of both the marijuana and alcohol businesses. Perhaps Dunleavy is more concerned with concentrating power in the hands of one person — or streamlining the process, as he calls it — resulting in more government control, but the public has less say.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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