Alaska Could Disband Its Cannabis Board. Is That… Good or Bad?

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants to repeal the boards tasked with regulating alcohol and marijuana in Alaska, according to documents from state officials.

The plan was outlined in a letter to commerce department employees by commissioner Julie Anderson and in a memo from Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office director Erika McConnell.

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The documents say Dunleavy wants to repeal the Marijuana Control Board and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and transfer authority and responsibilities of the boards to the commissioner. This is billed as a way to reduce the “regulatory burden in efforts to expand entrepreneurialism.”

Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow said further details will be released when legislation addressing the boards is introduced. But he said Dunleavy is looking at ways to find efficiencies in government. Shuckerow said other states regulate these industries at the agency level and allow for public engagement.

Mark Springer, chairman of the Marijuana Control Board, said he is concerned about the openness and level of public involvement in the regulatory process if rules governing the industry are drafted administratively instead of by a board. He said the board takes pride in the record it has established on decisions it has made.

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Springer also noted that the 2014 voter-approved initiative legalizing adult-use cannabis referenced establishment of a Marijuana Control Board.

Both the alcohol and marijuana control boards serve important purposes in protecting the health and safety of Alaska residents, Springer said.

Meanwhile, McConnell said in her memo that the state Department of Public Safety had terminated her office’s access to databases for crime reporting and information needed for enforcement officers to conduct thorough investigations. She writes that this has hampered investigators in their enforcement duties and compromised safety because investigators are unable to identify individuals flagged as a risk to officer safety.

Investigators often make unscheduled visits to sites in response to complaints or tips, McConnell wrote.

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“With no access to these databases, the investigators may go to interview someone who is subject to a warrant or possibly armed and dangerous, without having any warning or information,” McConnell wrote.

The Department of Public Safety has indicated it is concerned the FBI will strip the state’s access to the databases if marijuana regulators use them since marijuana is illegal on the federal level, she said. But she said the department has not asked the FBI if there is a problem and the FBI did not in a 2017 audit flag any issues with marijuana regulators accessing criminal justice information.

The department has agreed to provide requested information for specific investigations but that arrangement is unworkable, McConnell wrote.