Crime & Courts

Alaska State Fair vendor reports stolen hemp products

Someone tampered with a few vendor booths at the Alaska State Fair after hours Saturday or early Sunday and stole hemp-based products from one, according to Palmer police.

The incidents are under investigation, Chief Lance Ketterling said.

Only one vendor so far – Releaf Alaska, a medical cannabis operation — reported items stolen, according to Dean Phipps, spokesman for the fair.

While Palmer does not allow any retail marijuana businesses, products based on the hemp compound CBD or cannabidiol are not regulated and can be sold in Palmer, Ketterling said. Some of what was stolen was a tincture sold in a small vial, Phipps said.

CBD-based products don't have intoxicating properties, unlike those with THC. They show promise in medical use for conditions including anxiety, epilepsy and aches and pains.

An initial investigation put the value of the stolen items at $10,000, the police chief said. In an interview, the owner of Releaf Alaska, Lori Brandt, put the value at "well over $100,000." The hemp oil mixture, dispensed a drop at a time, sold for $220 a vial, she said. Her booth inside Raven Hall had hundreds of bottles, she said.

"And they got all of it," she said. Her Florida-made elixir is designed for the elderly. If someone stole it hoping to get high, she said, they won't. Her stand included locked display cases and Raven Hall itself was locked as it was every night.

"It sickened me. Whoever got it, they don't even know what they got," Brandt said. Also stolen were CBD honey sticks made by a woman in Soldotna that she was selling for $10 each and her most expensive water pipes, which went for $300.


Business at the fair had been going great until her inventory was swiped, she said. Most of her customers are over 40.

The fair ended Monday.

[Photos: 2017 Alaska State Fair]

The organization that runs the fair provided six roving security officers after hours, Phipps said.

Two other booths in Raven Hall – a jewelry vendor and a drone vendor — were tampered with, Phipps said. The jewelry and drone booths had expensive items, but it doesn't appear any were taken, he said.

The Janette's Jewels booth had a security camera, Phipps said. Black-and-white still images from the video were posted on the Stolen in Alaska Facebook page and are being used in the investigation, he said.

The fair had about 475 booths, including about 75 food booths. Many vendors watched over their goods by staying at the fairgrounds overnight, sleeping in their booth, a tent or a motorhome, Phipps said.

Fair operators have not installed security cameras on the grounds or inside buildings. Adding security cameras would be a policy decision for the board of directors and management, Phipps said.

Maybe someone hid inside overnight, he said. Maybe someone jiggled open the door. Or maybe someone with a key was behind the break-in, he said.

Lisa Demer

Lisa Demer was a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch News. Among her many assignments, she spent three years based in Bethel as the newspaper's western Alaska correspondent. She left the ADN in 2018.