Last month, Gov. Michael Dunleavy appointed a former Fairbanks city councilwoman, Vivian Stiver, and Lt. Christopher Jaime, the Deputy Commander for the Alaska Wildlife Trooper Soldotna Detachment, to the state Marijuana Control Board. The Kenai Community Coalition on Cannabis met last Monday to discuss the new appointees.
Dollynda Phelps, co-owner of Nikiski-based Peace Frog Botanicals, a limited marijuana cultivation company, helped organize the coalition meeting, which was attended by 35 to 40 people, she said. The coalition has concerns with Stiver, Phelps said. She said there were no concerns about the appointment of Jamie.
“There were lots of discussions,” Phelps said. “We’re terrified of the implications long term. We will never have a ‘yes’ vote if prohibitionists are allowed in.”
Stiver said the term prohibitionist is the wrong way to describe her.
“Prohibitionist is a term used to instill fear,” Stiver said. “It’s absolutely untrue. Alaska made the decision to make marijuana legal. It’s a done deal.”
Defending his appointment, Matt Shuckerow, spokesperson for the governor, said the governor believes Stiver’s appointment will offer a new perspective to the board.
“It’s no secret Ms. Stiver holds a certain skepticism for legal marijuana use — a viewpoint held by many other Alaskans,” Shuckerow said. “The governor believes her appointment will help bring a valuable perspective to the board, particularly as they examine critical issues and regulations.”
Stiver would be replacing board chairman, Brandon Emmett, who was removed from the board earlier in January. Phelps said she believes a recent vote to approve rules for onsite consumption was a trigger point for the board’s recent reorganization.
Shuckerow said Emmett’s board position expires at the end of February. Jamie will be taking over a seat most recently held by Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt, who was appointed mid-term by Gov. Bill Walker and never confirmed by the legislature.
“For various reasons, though not based on previous policy positions, Governor Dunleavy chose not to forward the previous administration’s appointment to the board.”
The Marijuana Control Board has five stakeholders, including a member of law enforcement, health care, rural Alaska, industry and the general public. So far, the only stakeholder group not to have representation on the board has been a member from the general public.
Shuckerow said the governor has chosen to fill the open seat with a member of the public, Stiver, as a way to give all stakeholders an opportunity to take part in these critical discussions.
“The governor and his administration have been clear that they are not looking to pick winners and losers,” Shuckerow said. “They recognize that legal marijuana is the law of the land, and will do their part to enforce the law, but also want to give concerned Alaskans — as the law intended — a voice in the decision-making process.”
Patricia Patterson, owner of High Bush Buds and Lucky Raven Tobacco, said she was disappointed in the governor’s choice in Stiver, saying that Stiver doesn’t represent the average voter.
“It’s absolutely 100 percent devastating to our industry,” Patterson said. “Dunleavy lost my support and my vote. It’s crippling. He didn’t give Alaskans an opportunity to volunteer for the position.”
Both Patterson and Phelps expressed concern in losing an industry representative to the board.
“Losing an industry rep on board is very, very bad,” Patterson said. “Having insight from someone with a license — that knowledge is imperative to make good decisions.”
Stiver said she is excited to be an active member of the board.
“My goals are to create processes that are fair and to create more education for the public so they can have confidence in the industry,” Stiver said.
She begins her three-year appointment on the Marijuana Control Board on Feb. 28.