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Anchorage's first commercial marijuana grows look for Assembly approval Tuesday

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: July 25, 2016
  • Published July 25, 2016

Two potential marijuana growers will vie for the approval of the Anchorage Assembly Tuesday evening, the first in Alaska's largest city as the legal cannabis industry inches forward.

Arctic Herbery and Dream Green Farms, two cultivation facilities located on different sides of town, will see their local marijuana licenses and special-use permits approved or denied Tuesday.

Both businesses are standard cultivation facilities, meaning they can grow as many square feet of cannabis as their warehouses allow.

"I feel pretty good," Arctic Herbery owner Bryant Thorp said Monday. Thorp was the first person to complete his state marijuana business application, and now he's a front-runner in Anchorage, too, both for his grow and a retail store.

Marijuana business applicant Bryant Thorp stands in the space he hopes will eventually house his marijuana retail shop on March 30, 2016. (Scott Jensen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Thorp is in the midst of outfitting his warehouse on South Arctic Boulevard, and is a couple of weeks from getting his occupancy certificate, "if this rain would knock it off," he said.

Thorp was also the first to apply for a cannabis retail store license in Anchorage. Should the city find that application complete, he'll be on the Oct. 18 Assembly agenda, which means the first retail store in Anchorage won't open until late October at the earliest.

Thorp said he's worked to stay in the forefront of the industry after seeing the celebrations in Seattle on the day Washington's recreational market opened in July 2014.

"I watched the news the day it happened … I just thought, 'Wow, wow, I want to be a part of that,' " Thorp said.

Getting to the Assembly has taken months.

"There are just dozens of hoops to jump through," Thorp said.

To get the ball rolling, Anchorage businesses must hold a community meeting with their neighbors, sending out a notice three weeks in advance. State applications must be complete before the local license application can be started.

After businesses turn in their applications, the municipality takes about 75 days to review the application and have the Assembly hearing, said Erika McConnell, special assistant to the director of the city's Office of Economic and Community Development.

A marijuana business that turns in its completed application by Aug. 4, for instance, will be scheduled for that Oct. 18 Assembly meeting.

The process is the longest in the state. In Juneau, businesses must also complete a marijuana business license, with approval from the planning commission. In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, there is no local license, just a zoning permit and a stamp of approval from the Assembly once the state has given the go-ahead.

In Anchorage, having a separate license allows for local control, McConnell said in June.

"If we have our own license we bring the control, the power within the municipal government to do enforcement and basically problem solving," McConnell said. "This was something that the Assembly was very clear about from day one."

Despite the lengthy process, Thorp said the city has been gracious and open in helping him work through the brand-new licensing.

Meanwhile, Dream Green Farms co-owner Justin Roland is waiting for Assembly approval to begin major construction on a warehouse he's leasing in Mountain View.

"I don't sleep much," Roland said.

Justin Roland talks about his proposed Dream Green Farms marijuana cultivation operation on July 22, 2016 in Anchorage. The Anchorage Assembly will rule on his business Tuesday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Finding a space to lease was challenging, and he's been paying rent on the vacant warehouse since January. It's been rough financially, he said, and the location hasn't even been approved yet.

"It's nerve-racking, a little bit, to not know," Roland said. He and two co-owners have already sunk $250,000 into the operation, he said, and he still needs to pull the trigger on construction.

Roland agrees there have been lots of hoops to jump through — and "you just keep jumping" — but said the city had helped him immensely in moving through the process.

Like Thorp, Roland said he didn't have too many neighborhood complaints. At his community meeting, people were most concerned about the smell, he said.

Neither grow was subject to much written public protest, with only brief comments submitted to the Assembly. Two people objected to Dream Green Farms, with one saying the farm "will bring no value to this community." For Arctic Herbery, the only objection was a neighbor who complained of insufficient parking, concerns about increased traffic and storm drainage.

More businesses are lined up for future Assembly meetings. One cannabis business, Alaska Rustic LLC, is slated for the Aug. 9 Assembly meeting. On Aug. 23, Danish Gardens LLC, will be heard by the Assembly.

Things start to pick up on Sept. 13, when two testing facilities, CannTest and AK Green Labs, will vie for their license alongside growing facilities Isadore LLC, Catalyst Cannabis Company and Fuzzy Budz.

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