Alaska's first marijuana retail stores and product manufacturers were approved by the state Thursday, the next step for the fledgling cannabis industry that is preparing to open for business.
On Thursday afternoon, Frozen Budz became the first state-approved retail shop. The Marijuana Control Board approved Destiny and Nick Neade's Fairbanks retail store after only a few minutes and minimal questioning during the second day of the board's two-day meeting in a room at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The crowd cheered and clapped after the approval.
"All right, now I just need some herb," Destiny Neade said to the crowd as she walked to the back of the room.
"I don't even know, it's amazing," Neade said after the approval. "We're excited, we're ready to open and ready to bring the voter initiative to life."
The Neades' storefront on Peger Road in Fairbanks is under construction, and Neade said she hopes to have it finished by Sept. 20. Frozen Budz had already received approval from the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and is now waiting on two state inspections before the store and connected product manufacturing area can open its doors.
Besides construction and the final regulatory steps, next up for the Neades is finding marijuana to sell at the store and figuring out where they will have the marijuana tested. They hope to be open by early October.
When retail stores can open will depend in part on local regulations, so stores won't open all at once.
Frozen Budz's was also the first product manufacturing license approved by the state, with a large variety of edibles approved Thursday.
After Frozen Budz's approval, the board cruised through other retail licenses, approving 11 more around the state in quick succession as the day came to a close. They included: Enlighten Alaska, LLC, Arctic Herbery, Alaska Buds, LLC and Raspberry Roots, The Frost Farms, all in Anchorage; Pakalolo Supply Co. in Fairbanks; The Herbal Cache in Girdwood; Herbal Outfitters, LLC in Valdez; Rainforest Farms, LLC in Juneau; Remedy Shoppe in Skagway; and Weed Dudes in Sitka.
Five more retail licenses were outstanding when the meeting came to a close. The board scheduled an additional meeting for Sept. 19 to address the remaining licenses.
Loren Dryer's Alaskan Leaf, LLC, was the last retail store on the agenda and Dryer wasn't heard at Thursday's meeting.
"Really, it doesn't make much of a difference to me," said Dryer, whose store would be in Anchorage. "I'm kind of in the thick of dealing with the city license right now."
When each store opens depends partially on additional local regulations, of which Anchorage has the most complex process. Marijuana crops must also be ready and testing facilities must be up and running. The first cultivation facilities were approved by the board in June and the first grows received their actual state licenses in July.
The board spent much of the day approving four product manufacturing facilities, also the first considered by the state. Each individual product was reviewed by the board and some licensees came prepared with dozens of product ideas.
Frozen Budz was the first product manufacturer to be approved. Neade had created 47 recipes for a wide range of edibles, from cookies to cannabis sauces. But after 25 were reviewed, the board asked that she pick out only three more so that other licensees could be approved Thursday.
Justin Roland from Einstein Labs was the second product manufacturer whose business was approved by the board. Many of his products were concentrates, like "sugar silk," a blend of concentrates and resin, or "caviar nugs," a marijuana bud covered with kief and cannabis oil. Roland's cultivation business, Dream Green Farms, was the first grow to be approved by the Anchorage Assembly.