State issues first marijuana warning to licensed business

An Anchorage marijuana business that ran afoul of state regulations will be let off with a warning.

On Thursday, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board heard from director Cindy Franklin, who said the owners of Arctic Herbery will not be prosecuted for the first alleged violation of Alaska’s commercial marijuana rules.

“The notice of violation here is a cautionary tale for everybody, so pay attention to what you’re doing. Let’s not see many more of these,” said board member Mark Springer.

“I’m delighted with the board’s decision,” said Bryant Thorpe, Arctic Herbery’s owner.

Thorpe declined to discuss the issue further because of ongoing discussions with the Municipality of Anchorage.

In late October, KTUU-TV reported that Arctic Herbery, which holds a marijuana cultivation license and a marijuana retail license, was giving away free samples of its product. That would have been a violation of several state regulations.

After investigating the report, Franklin said the situation was more complicated.

Thorpe and several individuals had been setting up the cultivation facility and retail business when Thorpe realized he still had personal-use marijuana at Arctic Herbery. Rather than throw it away, Thorpe used store equipment to roll joints and gave those joints to the people helping him with the business.

“He did not give marijuana away to members of the public walking in the door,” Franklin said, but “he did give marijuana away on his licensed premises.”

Thorpe had believed that because his business did not have all of its permits from the Municipality of Anchorage, his business was not active and the location was still private, covered under Alaska’s personal-use marijuana laws.

Franklin said the state feels differently.

“From our perspective, he became a licensee when the board authorized his license,” she said.

Because of the confusion, the board declined to escalate the issue into its formal violation process, something that could lead to punishment.

“I’m fairly confident Mr. Thorpe understands the rules he broke and would not break them again,” Franklin said.

Board member Brandon Emmett said the incident is a reminder that marijuana businesses need to be cautious.

“Many people are still wary of our industry,” he said. “Our industry (members) are all going to have to do their best … to change public perception.”

In other business Thursday, the board approved several draft changes to regulations concerning testing requirements, retail store notices, the fingerprinting of new owners, food safety permits and the effects of a local vote to restrict marijuana sales.

Those drafts will go out for public comment and will only become effective if approved at a future board meeting.

The next scheduled meeting of the Marijuana Control Board is in December.

Contact reporter James Brooks at 523-2258 or james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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