Marijuana board revises cultivator limits

The Marijuana Control Board passed a revised regulation for Alaska cannabis cultivation licensees on July 14.

After a regulation approved at the July 8 meeting crossed hairs with instructions from the Alaska Marijuana Control Office, the board changed rules for the cultivators who are currently active but still waiting for a preliminary inspection from AMCO enforcement officers.

The new regulations allow a cultivation licensee in an active stage to have any number of immature plants upon their inspection, as long as the plants are tagged into the state’s tracking system, METRC. Currently, there are between 12 and 20 of these cultivators.

Inspectors, who have studied similar rules in other states, must be able to have reasonable assurance that cultivators tagged the plants when they were eight inches in height.

Cultivators may also have 12 immature plants – roughly speaking, plants not yet in a flowering state – of any size to serve as mother plants for clones.

The measure passed on a 3-2 vote of the five-member board, with chairman Peter Mlynarik and Loren Jones voting against it.

The board held a lengthy discussion of enforcement aims, botany and business cycles during the telephone meeting. The point of having initial height restrictions for plants, explained board director Cynthia Franklin, is to ensure “that someone didn’t cheat and bring plants in before they ordered their tags.” This follows Franklin’s earlier instructions to cultivators advising plants be in a range of six to 18 inches upon inspection.

“We understand they will have grown by the time we see them,” she said.

Industry representatives Bruce Schulte and Brandon Emmett argued in favor of having no height restrictions whatsoever for the immature plants a cultivator could have between ordering tracking tags and their AMCO inspection.

Both Schulte and Emmett implored the board to loosen the height restrictions and instead specify that cultivators can have any number of immature plants. Height, they said, is a poor measure of a cannabis plants actual maturity, and restricting growers to a pre-tagging size limit would have bad consequences for the industry.

“It’s difficult to describe the impacts of this change over time,” Schulte said. “If we have all these cultivators starting out with these plants at height restriction… we’ll see a spike, then business won’t have anything to sell for a month.”

Schulte and Emmett pointed to Washington as an example, where such initial cultivation height restrictions contributed to a cycle of price swings related to an unstable supply of cannabis to retailers.

Other board members argued the height restriction is necessary to curtail black market operators who could potentially stay in business as suppliers for licensed cultivators.

“It gives people incentive to stay in the black market ‘til they transfer it to the legal market,” said Mlynarik.

The board's next meeting will take place on September 7-8 in Anchorage, during which it plans to award the first retail licenses. 

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

Updated: 
07/14/2016 - 12:35pm

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