The Anchorage Assembly approved the city's first commercial marijuana grow Tuesday night, a significant step forward for the developing legal cannabis industry.
"This whole green revolution, it starts here tonight with the City of Anchorage," said Assemblyman Dick Traini who voted to approve the local marijuana license and special-use permit for Dream Green Farms and to refer the application for a second proposed commercial marijuana grow, Arctic Herbery, to an Assembly committee for additional review after a flurry of late-night debate.
"The concern is all these little details and we're going to have to work them out," Assemblyman Tim Steele told Arctic Herbery owner Bryant Thorp during the meeting. "We're not picking on you, it's a new process."
Tuesday marked the first time the Assembly held public hearings for proposed cultivation facilities after Alaskans voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2014.
In an effort to further structure the city's approval process, the Assembly also voted Tuesday night to send all future marijuana applications to its Community and Economic Development Committee before it took public testimony.
This did not apply to Dream Green Farms.
Anchorage's first approved marijuana grow
In a 10-0 vote, Assembly members approved the local license and permit for Dream Green Farms, at 2939 Porcupine Drive in Mountain View. Assemblyman Patrick Flynn was excused from the meeting because he is an investor in a proposed marijuana cultivation business that has an application in with the state, he said.
During the meeting, Assemblymembers praised Dream Green Farms' application that they said created a high standard for those to follow.
"I don't know how to put this other than this application right here should be the standard by which all others are measured — period," said Assemblywoman Amy Demboski. "No offense to those that are coming behind it but this is like 'A' work and this is exactly what we're looking for."
Dream Green Farms co-owner Justin Roland said in an interview before the vote that a lot of work had gone into the application and if the business received municipal approval, major construction on a vacant warehouse would start immediately.
"It's going to be as fast as we possibly can," Roland said.
He anticipated that the business would have its first product on the market in December. Dream Green Farms can sell marijuana to another cultivator or a retail store, however it cannot sell it to individuals.
Roland said applying for a retail license was "down the road."
A second vote postponed
In a following 9-1 vote, the Assembly referred the local marijuana license and special-use permit for Arctic Herbery, located at 7107 Arctic Boulevard, near the West 71st Avenue intersection, to the Assembly Community and Economic Development Committee.
"The location is completely different and I think there is going to be a potential issue with some of the neighbors and I think the reponsible thing to do is to evaluate that — period," Demboski said.
Thorp's proposed business is in an industrial zone, but Demboski said she worried about residential homes on the other side of Arctic Boulevard.
Thorp declined to comment on the Assembly's vote after its meeting. However, he told the Assembly that he felt that most of their questions revolved around his future plans for a retail store. (Thorp was the first to apply for a separate cannabis retail store license in Anchorage, which would likely not go in front of the Assembly until the fall if the city finds his application complete).
"We're talking about my cultivation license," Thorp told the Assembly.
Assemblyman Pete Petersen cast the only vote against sending Thorp's application to committee.
"I think we're sending this to committee to try to kill it," he said. He said the Assembly cannot expect people to spend "thousands and thousands" of dollars on an attorney to help them write their applications.
Both Arctic Herbery and Roland's Dream Green Farms have already received approval from Alaska's Marijuana Control Board in June. Once open, the businesses could grow as many square feet of marijuana as their warehouses allow.
Assemblyman John Weddleton chairs the Community and Economic Development Committee and said it will hold a meeting on Thorp's application before Aug. 9, when the Assembly has its next meeting and will take up Arctic Herbery again.