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Trade group forms to promote legal marijuana in Alaska

JUNEAU -- A trade association has been created to promote the nascent legal marijuana business in Alaska.

Four of the five board members of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association held a news conference Thursday in Anchorage to discuss the group's formation; the event was teleconferenced. State records show the group received status as a nonprofit corporation in late April. The goal was to announce shortly after that, but those involved have been busy working at the local level to help set up the industry, board member and vice president Brandon Emmett said in explaining the timing of Thursday's announcement.

According to information provided by the group, each of the five members on the founding board of directors plans to become marijuana business owners once licenses become available from the state. Membership in the organization will be open to individuals and businesses working in or associated with the legal pot industry in the state. The board is expected to grow to 11 members as the industry develops to allow for representation of a larger cross-section, members said.

Board members are Emmett, President Bruce Schulte, Kim Kole, Leif Abel and Treasurer Shaun Tacke, who was unable to attend Thursday's event.

Voters last fall passed an initiative legalizing recreational use of pot by those 21 and older. Officials have until November to develop regulations for the legal marijuana industry and can begin accepting and processing applications to operate marijuana businesses in February, according to the initiative language.

Once licenses are issued and industry operations begin, the group expects to hire an executive director and a paid lobbyist. There will be a code of conduct for association members.

The association also plans to offer benefits, such as being part of a group health insurance plan, Kole said.

Emmett and Schulte were recently appointed as industry representatives to the Marijuana Control Board, which is charged with regulating the industry. Schulte said the two were limited in how much detail they could get into about the development of regulations currently out for public comment given their role on the control board.

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