In Anchorage, Alaska, some dispensaries are having issues with municipal code violations. One dispensary, AlaskaSense, LLC, is having particular trouble. Last week, city officials revoked AlaskaSense owner Smadi Warden’s handling permit, blocking her ability to sell any cannabis products. But before that, Warden’s dispensary was already on regulators’ radar for a series of odor violations. According to Anchorage Land Use Enforcement officers, AlaskaSense was fined for outside weed odors six times during the week of May 4 to May 11—basically, every day. Warden has yet to file an appeal, but AlaskaSense is arguing that Anchorage’s city code on marijuana smell is too vague and subjective.
Is Alaska Going Overboard With Marijuana Odor Violations?
Cannabis has been legal for adult use in Alaska since 2014. But the state’s retail market didn’t really get into gear until late 2016. And the reason for the slow roll out, many argue, was the state’s long, complicated and expensive regulatory process. Not to mention that some local governments put in place even stricter rules and regulations for cannabis businesses.
Alaska isn’t thunderfucking around with their marijuana regulations. Weed businesses have been learning the limits of the law the hard way this week. We reported on a cultivation facility losing their license over plant scraps found by their dumpster.
In Anchorage, one of the more onerous regulations for dispensary operators has been the municipal smell code. The code states that any premises involved in the sale or cultivation of cannabis “shall be ventilated so that the odor of marijuana cannot be detected by a person with a normal sense of smell at any lot line of the subject property.”
Anchorage Land Use Enforcement officers say AlaskaSense violated the code six times in May, based on a strong smell of cannabis odor outside the building. But AlaskaSense argues that “normal sense of smell,” the wording in the code, is too subjective.
Assemblyperson Chris Constant, however, says that odor is a pretty common sense issue. And he worries that if AlaskaSense appeals and a hearing officer agrees that a normal nose is not an applicable legal standard, the city will have to invest in expensive “smell detection” equipment. This, in turn, Constant says, will force Anchorage to dramatically increase the fine for weed odors.
Alaska’s Super-Stinky Weed Is Posing A Challenge For Dispensaries
AlaskaSense is one of the largest cannabis cultivators and retailers in Anchorage. As such, odor control is particularly challenging. Another major Anchorage dispensary, Enlighten Alaska, is also concerned about odor violations. Co-owner Leah Levinton said it took a $25,000 HVAC filtration and ventilation system to comply with the odor code.
Levinton went on to list other grueling compliance issues. Like making sure buildings meet all the requirements under Title 21, finding cannabis-friendly landlords, and so on. In such a heavily regulated industry, Levinton says staying compliant and being a good neighbor is paramount.