Cultivation dominates marijuana applicants

  • Of the 175 license applications for marijuana businesses made public so far, 117 are for cultivation permits while 43 are for retail operations. Photo/David Zalubowski/AP

The first batch of marijuana business licenses is available to the public, and so far Alaskans have more interest in growing than selling.

The Marijuana Control Board began accepting license applications on Feb. 24, but only made them available to the public March 14. Public figures from various marijuana industry and political groups have filed, including members of the Marijuana Control Board itself and the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.

The Marijuana Control Board received 198 different applications as of March 17, but many applicants submitted duplicates, an issue raised by Marijuana Control Board executive director Cynthia Franklin the first week after submissions began.

 After duplicates are removed, the board received applications for 175 individual licenses, submitted by 136 individuals or groups of individuals acting as a single agent.

By far, more Alaskans have applied for cultivation licenses than any other license type.

Of 175 licenses, 117 are for cultivation: 40 for limited cultivation, which applies to grow operations 500 square feet and under, and 77 for standard cultivation, which has no upward limit. 

Retail licenses number 43. Marijuana product manufacturing licenses — which include edibles — number six, while concentrate manufacturing facilities number seven.

Only three people have submitted applications for testing facilities, which all cannabis products must pass through to be legally saleable. Both are located in Southcentral Alaska: two in Anchorage and one in the Mat-Su area.

The numbers expose several cracks in the ongoing struggle for marijuana businesses to get their establishments running quickly in spite of zoning regulations and local government actions. Some applications are submitted in unincorporated Mat-Su Borough areas, which could outlaw commercial marijuana as soon as October by ballot initiative, while others are using only tentative addresses.

The numbers put Alaska to roughly half the concentration of marijuana licenses in other states. As of now, if every license were approved, Alaska would have one recreational marijuana license per every 4,200 residents. Colorado has one marijuana license per every 2,200 residents, though that ratio includes medical facilities, which do not exist in Alaska.

Many applications are co-located with retail marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities a popular duo. Several license applicants even go for a triple, co-locating product or concentrate manufacturing with retail and cultivation. The Marijuana Control Board received 50 of these stacked license applications, or 25 pairs.

Notable applicants

Among applicants is Brandon Emmett, one of two designated industry representatives on the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. Emmett has applied with two associates for three separate licenses in Fairbanks, including limited cultivation, standard cultivation, marijuana product manufacturing, and marijuana concentrate manufacturing.

Kim Kole, a member of both the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association and the Coalition for the Responsible Legislation of Cannabis, has applied for seven licenses, all in Anchorage, more than any other individual or group of individuals statewide.

These include five applications for retail establishments, each located at different addresses throughout Anchorage. Two include co-locations with standard retail cultivation facilities.

Rather than trying to dominate the Anchorage market, Kole said she’s only trying to keep her place in line by getting the ball rolling on all potential locations. She said she didn’t end up securing several of the addresses for which she applied, which she expected. Licenses cost nothing to initiate, and potential landlords are constantly pulling out of potential leasing opportunities to marijuana businesses.

“Honestly I’m surprised more people didn’t seem to do that,” Kole said.

Among other notable applicants is Sherman Ernouf, law partner of Anchorage attorney and former Anchorage mayoral candidate Dan Coffey, has applied for an Anchorage standard cultivation license. Coffey also acts as filing agent for other marijuana license applicants.

Regional preferences

Of 175 licenses, Anchorage claims the largest interest for marijuana business, with 50 licenses in Anchorage and one in Girdwood.

In Anchorage, more interest lies in cultivating than in selling, but only by a hair.

The board received applications for 21 retail stores, 18 standard cultivation licenses, and four limited cultivation licenses.

Anchorage will feature quite a few of the brewpub-style co-located marijuana outlets. Of Anchorage’s 46 license applications, 18 are located at the same address, meaning nine retailers in the area will be growing their own product on premises.

Two of the three applications for marijuana testing facilities are located in Anchorage.

The Interior has a clear preference for cultivation.

Of 22 license applications located in Fairbanks, 12 are for cultivation: 11 standard cultivation licenses and one limited cultivation license. Only five individuals have made applications for retail outlets. The two applications for North Pole businesses are both for cultivation, one standard and one limited.

Fairbanksans also submitted four product manufacturing applications and one concentrates manufacturing application.

A dozen of Fairbanks’s licenses are concentrated in only four addresses.

The Mat-Su Borough will have a measure on the October 2016 ballot that would ban all commercial marijuana activity in the unincorporated borough, but evidently, would-be marijuana entrepreneurs in the area are optimistic it won’t pass.

Both Wasilla and Palmer have already passed bans on commercial cannabis activity, but a number of licenses have been filed for addresses in each area. Most are attached to addresses that fall outside city limits.

Wasilla, like the rest of the state, focuses primarily on growing, with eight standard cultivation licenses and five limited cultivation licenses. Only three retail outlets have been applied for, along with two concentrate manufacturing facilities and one product manufacturing facility.

Palmer reflects the same balance, with two limited cultivation licenses, two standard cultivation licenses, two retail stores, and one testing facility.

DJ Summers can be reached at daniel.summers@alaskajournal.com.

Updated: 
03/23/2016 - 3:25pm