State allows marijuana businesses to apply for ‘Made in Alaska’ logos

The state-run “Made in Alaska” program is accepting applications from marijuana businesses.

According to records obtained by the Empire via a state information act request, a Nikiski business known variously as Hempco LLC and Alaska Cannabis Company, applied for a Made in Alaska certification on July 20.

It hasn’t received that certification yet: The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development is requiring marijuana businesses to submit a completed Alaska marijuana license for consideration, and Hempco doesn’t have one yet, according to the records of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

“It’s a new wrinkle, but it’s only a wrinkle,” said Fred Parady, deputy commissioner of the Department of Commerce.

Hempco won’t receive its certification just yet, but Parady confirmed that the door is now open for other marijuana businesses to apply.

The principal benefit of the program for participants is a small “Made in Alaska” logo featuring a white mother bear and a black cub. The logo, administered by the state, is permitted on products with components at least 51 percent Alaska-made.

Cary Carrigan, head of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association trade group, said the “Made in Alaska” decision matters because it’s a sign the state is continuing to normalize its attitude toward marijuana and treat marijuana businesses the same as others.

“I think it’ll be a good thing for us. Anything that says who we are and what we’re doing (is good),” he said by phone.

James Barrett of Rainforest Farms, Juneau’s first legal marijuana farm and shop, said by text Friday that he turned in his application, and now he’s waiting to see the result.

Marijuana businesses are still barred from using the official “Alaska Grown” label put on state agricultural products because that program receives federal funding. The “Made in Alaska” program, whose label features a polar bear and a black bear, does not receive federal funding, which is why it can be opened to marijuana businesses.

Marijuana remains an illegal drug at the federal level, but Alaskans voted in 2014 to legalize a recreational marijuana industry. The first storefront sales took place in October 2016.

According to state figures, 1,258 “Made in Alaska” certifications were issued in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30.

No one from Hempco (the name listed on the company’s marijuana license application) or Alaska Cannabis Company (the name listed on the business license) returned calls from the Empire, and the Department of Commerce has likewise been unable to reach representatives of either company since its initial application.

Jennifer Canfield, one of the owners of Green Elephant Gardens in Juneau, said the state’s decision is good news, but marijuana businesses still face obstacles that other businesses don’t, particularly in the way that they’re banned from the federally regulated banking system.

“It’s always good news when we gain opportunities that any other business has access to, but unfortunately, I can’t even take a ‘Made in Alaska” certification to the bank,’ she said.

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

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