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Last-minute Alaska marijuana residency requirement change will get second look, board says

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published November 23, 2015

The Marijuana Control Board will meet again to take a look at Alaska residency requirements after an 11th-hour change to its rules was met with shock and concern by both the state and industry supporters.

On Dec. 1, the board "will discuss and may amend residency requirements" that were adopted last week, the board announced in an email.

While marijuana businesses must be 100 percent Alaska-owned, on Friday the board changed the definition of what it takes to qualify as an Alaskan.

Under the adopted regulations, a person must only fulfill Alaska voter registration requirements. All that is needed to do so is having a physical Alaska address and not being registered to vote in another state.

Board chair Bruce Schulte texted Monday that the changes "could be problematic for staff to implement with the resources at hand," so it wanted to "see if there are some refinements we might look at."

Assistant Attorney General Harriet Milks had called Friday's vote a "sea change" that could "upend the whole program."

With the change, Outside investors "don't need us anymore," said marijuana business attorney Jana Weltzin. Alaskans looking to compete against massive Outside companies will find themselves struggling, she said.

Board member Mark Springer, who had proposed the amendment, said he did so because there had been concerns that the requirement would limit opportunities for some Alaskans to invest.

"There are people in this state who travel out of state long enough not to get a dividend, but they live here, so I was looking at it as providing the opportunity," Springer said.

He said he'd consider it a "major failure" if non-Alaskans flew up, rented an apartment and claimed residency.

The vote passed 3-2 as the meeting came to a close, with Loren Jones, public health board member, and Peter Mlynarik, the public safety board member, dissenting.

Whether Alaskans should be the only ones permitted to invest in the state's marijuana businesses has been debated as the rule-making process has continued.

Some business interests have said they need Outside investment to be viable in an industry where loans are still off-limits. Meanwhile, the state has said having Outside investment hinders its ability to monitor who is pouring money into Alaska marijuana, one of the federal guidelines the state is trying to follow.

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