The commercial marijuana industry is still a small part of Alaska's economy, but by the end of 2017 it employed more than 500 people.
That's according to a new report released in early May by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, focusing on the economic impact of Alaska's young cannabis industry.
The sector paid out about $8.5 million in wages in all of 2017, the first full calendar year that retail cannabis stores were open in Alaska. Most of that — $3.8 million — was paid in Anchorage, followed by Fairbanks at $2.1 million.
In January 2017, 79 people (excluding owner-operators) worked for a licensed cannabis business, according to the report, and by December that number grew to 536.
"This new industry creates a small number of direct jobs, including nursery workers, laboratory testers, and retail sales workers," the report said, and it also creates or supports jobs in other sectors — including accountants and state regulators.
Tax revenue from cannabis has generally been increasing since the first retailer opened in October of 2016. January of this year was the month that saw the most tax revenue generated, topping $1 million. The next highest was in October last year, in a month when marijuana retailers said they reaped the benefits of Permanent Fund dividend payments.
Overall, the industry generated $8.3 million in taxes in its first 17 months, according to the labor department, and that doesn't include revenue from local sales tax in places that have it, such as Juneau.
Since the first retail shop opened in Anchorage in 2016, 22 cannabis shops have opened in Alaska's largest city — 21 in the Anchorage Bowl and another in Girdwood.
Legal cannabis has also changed the face of storefronts across Anchorage. One boarded-up building on Minnesota Drive has transformed into a bright business called House of Green.
You can check out locations of all Alaska's cannabis stores using this map.
Here's a before-and-after look at marijuana shops across Anchorage, some of which have transformed more dramatically than others.
Alaskabuds — 1005 E. Fifth Ave.
Arctic Herbery — 7107 Arctic Blvd.
Enlighten Alaska — 2600 Spenard Road
AK Slow Burn Cannabis Outlet — 2042 E. Third Ave.
Alaska Fireweed — 715 W. Fourth Ave.
Alaskan Leaf — 1211 W. 36th Ave., Suite A
Dankorage — 2812 Spenard Road
House of Green — 3105 Minnesota Drive
Raspberry Roots — 501 Raspberry Road
Uncle Herb's — 6511 Arctic Spur Road
AK Fuzzy Budz — 2612 Eagle St.
Alaska's Green Light District — 407 E. Northern Lights Blvd.
AM Delight — 3902 Spenard Road
Hillside Natural Wellness — 8639 Toloff St.
AK Frost — 5200 A St.
Cannabaska — 521 W. Tudor Road
Satori — 221 E. Fifth Ave.
These four shops are also open, but they weren't among the 20 shops closest to opening at the time the Anchorage Daily News took "before" photos of marijuana retail storefronts coming soon in 2016.
Great Northern Cannabis — 541 W. Fourth Ave.
AK Joint — 7801 Schoon St.
Catalyst Cannabis Co. — 9900 Old Seward Highway
Hollyweed 907 — 2429 E. 88th Ave.