Controversy is Brewing in Alaska Over Marijuana Control Board Ouster
Alaska voters approved a recreational cannabis legalization initiative in November 2014. Alaska joined Oregon and Washington D.C. in doing so in 2014, and those states of course joined Washington and Colorado which approved similar reforms in 2012.
Oregon started allowing limited recreational cannabis sales in late 2015, with full recreational sales now underway. Washington D.C. does not allow any recreational cannabis sales.
Alaska just recently started issuing cannabis business licenses, but there are still a lot of things that need to be worked out in Alaska. The recent ouster of Alaska Marijuana Control Board member Bruce Shulte has caused quite a bit of controversy, and could affect progress.
Only one industry member remains
When the Alaska Marijuana Control Board was created, and the members selected, there was a very specific breakdown of how positions were to be allocated, per HB 123, which created the Board.
Per the bill, “one person from the public safety sector; one person from the public health sector; one person currently residing in a rural area; one person actively engaged in the marijuana industry; and one person who is either from the general public or actively engaged in the marijuana industry.”
Bruce Shulte considered himself to be the 'one person actively engaged in the marijuana industry' and fellow member Brandon Emmett was the 'one person who is either from the general public or actively engaged in the marijuana industry,' commonly referred to as industry/public.
However, the now vacant position is being listed as industry/public, not just industry, meaning that the person selected does not have to have any background in cannabis. That has led to some cannabis community members in Alaska crying foul.
New Board Chair raises concerns
At a June 9th Alaska Marijuana Control Board meeting, then Board Chair Bruce Shulte was replaced with Peter Mlynarik. Peter Mlynarik is not only the Soldotna Chief of Police, he is also gathering signatures for a commercial ban on cannabis in unincorporated areas of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Those facts don't sit well with cannabis advocates, for obvious reasons. Mr. Mlynarik claims that he is able to keep his personal views out of his decision making process as Board Chair, but that is something that many find hard to believe.
“I have witnessed some highly questionable behavior on the part of several in this administration and I can only assume from my own dismissal that Gov. Walker condones that questionable behavior, and that is truly shameful,” Schulte said according to the Juneau Empire.
Shulte went on to say, “I believe there is another agenda at work here — and it is definitely not what the voters asked for. The appearance of transparency is, in my opinion, a thinly-veiled façade intended to obscure the fact that they have no real intention of letting a lawful marijuana industry get started in Alaska.”
Should a member of law enforcement, who is actively gathering signatures to ban commercial cannabis, be allowed to serve on Alaska's Marijuana Control Board?