The Anchorage Assembly unanimously approved the city's first license for a retail pot shop Tuesday night, setting the stage for Anchorage residents to buy legal marijuana in just a few weeks' time.
After an extremely brief hearing, the Assembly approved a marijuana license and special land use permit for Arctic Herbery, which is located in an industrial area south of Midtown. There was no discussion among Assembly members and no one showed up to testify before the vote.
The owner of Arctic Herbery, Bryant Thorp, had already attended several Assembly committee meetings to work out the details of his proposal. In July, Thorp received a cultivation license from the city for a grow operation at the same location.
"I'm shocked. That was easy," Thorp, an Anchorage real estate agent and former post office manager, said in an interview after Tuesday's meeting.
The Assembly approval gives Thorp the go-ahead to open a shop near West 71st Avenue on Arctic Boulevard. Some conditions are attached to the license, such as requiring the store to be closed between midnight and 8 a.m, and be well-ventilated enough that the smell of marijuana can't be detected at the property line.
Thorp also submitted to the Assembly an agreement with the Taku-Campbell Community Council that lays out a framework for communicating with neighbors about problems.
He estimated his opening date earlier this week as "around the first of November-ish."
At an Assembly land use committee meeting last week, Thorp fielded a number of questions from Assembly members about parking and crowds.
In the end, the Assembly decided Thorp had done enough to prepare.
"I just wanted to note that with breathtaking speed we blew by the first approval of a retail marijuana establishment in Anchorage," Assemblyman John Weddleton, who chairs the city's land use committee that reviews marijuana license applications, said after Thorp's license was approved Tuesday night. "We haven't made it easy on everyone but I wish him luck, I hope they do a great job."
"Go forth and do good," Assemblyman Tim Steele told Thorp.
Thorp more than doubled his number of parking spots — from five to 11 — in response to city concerns, and said he'd also submitted a written plan to accommodate large crowds on the weekend. He said he's considering a shuttle system for his store's opening weekend, typical for major sporting events.
He said Tuesday that customers, four at a time, can expect to walk into the store, have ID checked by a doorman and buy pot at two registers. At least initially, he said, his products will be sold in limited quantities to keep them from running out before a few hours have passed.
Thorp said he only has minor improvements to be made to his store before opening. But like the rest of the state's growers and retailers, Thorp is waiting on testing facilities to open, as every batch of commercial marijuana must be tested before it can be sold to consumers.
CannTest LLC, a cannabis testing facility in Anchorage's Ship Creek area, will likely be the first to open in mid- to late October.
A lengthy municipal permitting process pushed back its open date later than anticipated, chief executive Mark Malagodi said last week.
If Arctic Herbery opens in early November, that will likely make it the first marijuana store in Anchorage. But others are close as well.
Two other retail stores up for Assembly approval this month, Alaska Buds LLC and Enlighten Alaska, are shooting for mid-November and December open dates, respectively.
Thorp said he'd had the goal of being first since he happened to be in Seattle at the time of the first retail stores opening there. He said he couldn't believe the frenzy that followed.
But Thorp said he doesn't think being first is necessarily that important in getting a competitive edge on the market.
"So I may get the grand opening ahead of everyone else," Thorp said. "That might generate some income. Once they're all starting to open, it doesn't mean I'll be more popular than the next guy, just that everyone in town is going to know where I'm at."