The owners of two marijuana delivery services and Alaska Cannabis Club owner Charlo Greene were each charged Friday with drug crimes for the delivery and possession of marijuana.
Undercover officers made multiple marijuana purchases from each business, charging documents show. The charges against each are misconduct involving a controlled substance in the fourth-degree, a felony, and in the fifth-degree, a misdemeanor.
"We wanted there to be a clear message that for the marijuana industry, you need to follow the regulations and do so in a legal fashion," said Alaska Department of Law Criminal Division Director John Skidmore.
In past months, each business has been the target of police raids. State regulators have said the businesses were operating illegally, and along with two marijuana social clubs, were sent "cease and desist" letters in July.
The businesses insisted they were operating legally.
On Friday, Rocky Burns, co-owner of Discreet Deliveries, was charged with seven felony counts and one misdemeanor. His partner, Larry Stamper, was not charged.
Undercover officers with the Anchorage Police Department bought marijuana from Discreet Deliveries seven times between late January and early August, charging documents say.
On Aug. 7, police executed "multiple search warrants" and found 31 pounds of marijuana, including marijuana concentrates; $5,000 in cash; and boxes of business records and invoices.
Officers found a chart indicating that Discreet Deliveries had made $700,000 in sales from January through July, charging documents say.
Burns, who had not yet seen the charging documents, on Monday expressed relief at hearing charges had been filed against him. Now, his arguments will be heard in court, he said.
"It's a reward. … I'm proud of it," Burns said of the charges.
"At least finally someone will listen. That's it. All I've been asking for is due process, so it's good," Burns said.
Michael Crites, owner of Absolutely Chronic Delivery Co., was charged with five felonies and one misdemeanor.
Anchorage police bought marijuana from ACDC five times between late May and early August, charging documents say. When police served a search warrant on the business premises, they found 27 ounces of marijuana hidden above ceiling tiles. "Little cash was found" at the business, the charging documents say.
Alaska Cannabis Club's Charlo Greene, whose legal name is Charlene Egbe, was charged with four felony counts and four misdemeanors.
Undercover officers bought marijuana from the Alaska Cannabis Club six times between March and August, according to charges filed.
On the first search warrant, executed March 20, police found more than 2 pounds of marijuana. On Aug. 7, when police executed a second warrant, they seized 26.9 ounces of marijuana from "two active grow operations" and 2.85 pounds of processed marijuana.
"I really hope the people I fight for will now show their support for me and everything I stand for by donating to my legal defense fund," Greene wrote in an email regarding the charges against her.
Alaska voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2014. However, Alaska's criminal statutes were not amended by the Legislature, and conduct not specifically outlined in Alaska's initiative remains illegal. That includes selling marijuana without first receiving a license from the state Marijuana Control Board.
Prosecutors and law enforcement collaborated to determine how to charge Burns, Crites and Greene, said Skidmore.
Many of the regulations surrounding marijuana are not in place yet, Skidmore said. The Department of Law's intent with the criminal cases is ensuring the marijuana initiative's implementation promotes products that are safe for the public.
"The initiative calls for there to be testing of the products that are sold. None of that has occurred," Skidmore said.
Taxation of marijuana also remains something of an unknown. Skidmore said he doesn't know if the owners of the three marijuana businesses could face tax-related charges, as those laws aren't in place.
DOL isn't against marijuana distribution, he said.
"Rather, we want to make sure the will of the people is complied with and in these cases, these are three businesses that were very flagrantly selling marijuana and making it known to the public, talking about what they were doing,"without following regulations, he said.
None of the drivers of the businesses or people who purchased pot from them will face charges, Skidmore said. Prosecutors are focusing on the principal players, he said.
Alaska Dispatch News reporter Jerzy Shedlock contributed to this story.