Dunleavy not planning marijuana board repeal this session

JUNEAU, Alaska — Gov. Mike Dunleavy does not plan to introduce legislation this session that would propose eliminating the board that regulates Alaska's legal marijuana industry, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Spokesman Matt Shuckerow said the decision was based on the time left in session and Dunleavy's focus on other legislative priorities, such as the budget and crime bills.

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He said he did not have an update on whether Dunleavy planned to pursue the idea in the future.

Earlier this year, Commerce Commissioner Julie Anderson in a message to department employees outlined Dunleavy's plans for the department. A section on legislation expected from Dunleavy included repeal of the Alcoholic Beverage Control and Marijuana Control boards, with the intent to transfer the authority and responsibility of the boards to the commissioner.

The idea garnered pushback from members of the marijuana industry who support how the board approaches issues it addresses.

Wednesday marked the 100th day of the legislative session. The constitution permits regular sessions of 121 days, with an option to extend for an additional 10.

Shuckerow also said Dunleavy does not plan to appoint a new member to the Marijuana Control Board until after the legislative session ends. The Legislature, meeting in joint session last week to consider confirmation of Dunleavy appointees, rejected his nomination of Vivian Stiver. Stiver was involved in a failed 2017 effort to ban marijuana operations in Fairbanks.

Shuckerow pointed to a provision of state law that says appointees not confirmed by the end of a regular session would be considered failed. He cited the unlikelihood that lawmakers would hold another joint session to consider additional appointments.

Opponents of Stiver sought to cast her as a prohibitionist, while supporters said she would bring fresh perspective and fairly hear issues. Dunleavy had picked her to replace Brandon Emmett, who had been one of two industry representatives on the board.

The law establishing the five-member board allows for up to two members actively involved in the industry, though one of those seats could go to a member of the general public. That would have been the case with Stiver.

Shuckerow said that moving forward Dunleavy will "examine prospective candidates and make a selection to the Marijuana Control Board that he believes will best serve Alaska."

Dunleavy's other nominee to the board, Lt. Christopher Jaime, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper nominated to the public safety seat, was confirmed without debate.

The board is scheduled to meet next week in Anchorage. Items on the agenda include routine licensing matters and "on-site consumption clean-up." The board previously approved regulations allowing for onsite use of marijuana at authorized retail locations but officials indicated revisions may be needed to provide greater clarity.

State marijuana regulators left open, for example, discussion on whether cannabis shops that want to offer onsite consumption of edibles but not allow smoking need to be in freestanding buildings. Erika McConnell, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said by email that the proposal set for discussion next week would address that.

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