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Anchorage Assembly threatens to pull pot shop license

Local authorities are threatening to yank the license of Anchorage's first approved marijuana store, Arctic Herbery, after a report that the owner gave away free cannabis samples at the store last month, in apparent violation of state and city law.

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday directing city staff not to give the store a final inspection until the owner, Bryant Thorp, resolved two violation notices from state authorities. The violations, issued Oct. 26 by the state Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office, stemmed from a TV station's report that owner Bryant Thorp gave away free cannabis samples at a grand opening a week earlier.

Bryant Thorp, owner of Arctic Herbery, outside his retail marijuana store on Arctic Boulevard in Anchorage on Oct. 4. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News file)

In an interview Tuesday, Thorp said the event had been blown out of proportion.

The violation notice from the state control office said Thorp confirmed "he did in fact introduce marijuana into the licensed premises for the purpose of providing free samples."

Under state and local regulations, stores are not permitted to give away free cannabis, though Thorp is technically not yet a licensed business owner, and can give away up to one ounce as a private citizen.

The state's notice, however, accused Thorp of giving away the product on licensed premises. The notice said the state had yet to inspect the facility, and the products provided by Thorp were not part of the regulated market and did not meet packaging and labeling requirements.

The Assembly resolution, introduced by Assembly member Dick Traini, set a hearing for Nov. 15 on Arctic Herbery's license. At the hearing, Traini said, the city could impose new restrictions on Thorp's license or take it away entirely.

On Oct. 21, KTUU reported Thorp had been giving free samples at his newly opened shop, located at 7107 Arctic Blvd.

Thorp said in the interview he had never used the word "free samples," as quoted in KTUU's report.

"The media made it out to be something that it truly wasn't," Thorp said.

Thorp maintained he "didn't bring pot in to give it away."

Thorp said he had responded to the complaint from the state control office, but declined to discuss the contents of the letter. He also said he wasn't worried about the state's violation notices.

"It's a very, very minor notice … I think once they read my response, they'll understand," he said.

But Assembly members warned of more serious consequences Tuesday night. Arctic Herbery was the first pot shop to be approved by the city, and Assembly member Amy Demboski called the state violations a "very serious issue."

"I think the message from this body is one that the rules and conditions that were put on your license are very important," Demboski said. "And if you violate those rules or conditions, your license may be revoked or modified."

Assembly member Tim Steele said he was "sorely disappointed that that's the way it started out," in reference to Thorp's shop.

"I'm anxious to see his explanation," Steele said.

Thorp's store, located in an industrial area on Arctic Boulevard, was on track to be the first to open for business in Anchorage, but now that timing is unclear. Thorp won't be able to get his license from the city until he resolves the issues with the state, Traini said.

The state Alcohol & Marijuana Control Board next meets Nov. 10.

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