North Slope Borough Police Chief Travis Welch has been appointed by Gov. Bill Walker to the public safety seat on the Marijuana Control Board.
The position opened up on Jan. 4 when Soldotna Police Chief and board Chairman Peter Mlynarik resigned after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded what's known as the Cole Memo, which was the prior administrations official policy non-enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it for recreational use.
Welch lives and works in the city of Ukpiagvik, formerly Barrow, and is from Bremerton, Wash. He earned an economics degree at Brigham Young University and completed a master's degree in criminal justice/safety studies at Saint Joseph's University. He also has an associate's degree from Latter-day Saints Business College.
Welch has worked for the North Slope Police Department since 2008, rising from the ranks of officer to sergeant, detective and then lieutenant before becoming Chief of Police in July 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile.
According to staff at the North Slope Borough, Welch is currently traveling on business and was not available to comment on his appointment.
Welch will go through the legislative confirmation process, along with current members Loren Jones and Nick Miller, whose appointments were renewed by the governor. Jones' and Miller's seats were to expire Feb. 28 but each of the men reapplied to be on the board.
Welch's first board meeting will be in Juneau Jan. 24-26. The 14-day application period ended Jan. 18. Staff in the governor's Boards and Commissions Office did not provide a list of those who applied to the Journal.
After Sessions withdrew the Cole Memo, Mlyarnik said the industry was no longer legitimate and he expected "changes ahead." He drew criticism last year when he campaigned in favor of an ordinance to ban commercial cannabis operations in the unicorporated areas of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The measure lost by a 2-1 margin.
He also was upset about the board's response to inconsistencies in testing results on marijuana at the only two labs in the state. In a 5-0 vote that included Mlynarik on Jan. 2, the board decided to issue a consumer alert rather than take his recommendation to suspend industry operations until the testing issue is resolved.
Mark Springer, the board's vice chair, said they will be voting on who will be their next chairman of the board at the Juneau meeting. They also will be looking at 52 cannabis business applications and several regulation projects.
"We've got some work ahead of us, but a lot of the licensing can go pretty quickly," Springer said. "At least we will do it all with a full board."
The U.S. Attorney for Alaska made a statement Jan. 4 that nothing would change as far as enforcement priorities in his jurisdiction after Sessions' decision.
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