I had the privilege of joining team CannaCon for the first CannaCon Anchorage trade show earlier this month. This was my first trip to AK, and I was excited that the occasion coincided with the opening of our 49th state’s legal cannabis Marketplace.
While Alaska has allowed for home grows and personal possession of cannabis since the 1970s, (Raven v. State 1975), the state has never created a regulated medical marijuana dispensary system. And so when voters passed Ballot Measure 2 in November of 2014, an initiative which legalized adult use of marijuana and called for the creation of a regulated commercial production, processing, distribution and retail system, an entire industry had to be created from scratch. CannaCon Anchorage was the nascent industry’s first opportunity to gather as a community in a major trade show setting. Some 65 vendors and around 500 attendees turned out to exchange information, build community and explorer potential opportunities in this exciting new legal market.
In my position as executive director of the Marijuana Business Association (MJBA), I traveled to Anchorage to serve as moderator, speaker and media partner. In that capacity, I was able to interact with all of the featured speakers – an eclectic mix of local growers, breeders, lawyers and entrepreneurs, and industry experts from Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California.
It was great to see the spirit of collaboration dominate the small but engaged panel discussions and seminars. As the fourth legal marijuana marketplace to come online, Alaska has the opportunity to benefit from the many lessons and missteps from Colorado, Washington and Oregon experiments. These are early days, and while the crowds were small – all the seminal players were in attendance.
Alaska has a huge land mass, but a small population, and a short growing season, and these factors will limit the size of its cannabis production. One possible advantage: the state is considering allowing cannabis consumption at retail (it is still wrestling with how to distinguish pot that was purchased at retail from that which was grown at home and brought to the proposed lounges). If it can work out the logistics of cannabis lounges, Alaska could quickly establish itself as the country’s premiere pot tourism destination. Hunkering down at the lodge after a long day enjoying the great outdoors with some ATF sounds pretty appealing to me — and I’ll bet to a lot of others as well.
My week in Anchorage went by quickly, and I vow to return soon. It was a great first visit, and I left inspired by the hearty entrepreneurial spirit of the business pioneers I met. As professionals in legal cannabis, I encourage you to join me in pledging to help our Alaskan brothers and sisters in their efforts to establish their legal cannabis industry.