State restores Cannabaska owner's permit
The battle between the state and an Anchorage marijuana business has come to an end.
AlaskaSense LLC, which holds a cultivation license and the license for retail store Cannabaska, will be allowed to reopen its doors.
At a seizure hearing on Friday, Erika McConnell, director of the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, asked the state Marijuana Control Board to reconsider its revocation of AlaskaSense owner Smadi Warden's marijuana handler permit.
“You revoked her handler's permit, thus she was not able to cultivate marijuana at AlaskaSense or sell marijuana at Cannabaska because she no longer had a permit. Since she is the sole licensee, your action revoking her permit effectively shut her businesses down,” McConnell told the MCB.
AlaskaSense is accused of poorly disposing of marijuana, refusing to let the state inspect a dumpster, and not paying nearly $200,000 in taxes.
Just two hours later, however, McConnell decided to close the business down again because of confusion related to a background check needed for the new permit.
A seizure hearing the next day at AMCO’s downtown Anchorage office was packed with AlaskaSense employees, supporters and other marijuana business owners.
McConnell told the board that she didn’t think they understood the consequences that revoking Warden’s handler permit would have.
Warden’s attorney, Jana Weltzin, argued that the crime didn’t fit the punishment.
“[Do] scraps on the ground and refusing to cut open a dumpster and destroy your own private property equate to ruining two businesses, putting 50 people out of work, crushing Smadi's entire financial existence for the civil violations?" Weltzin asked. "Was this adequate and was this your intent?”
The board went into an executive session and returned with a 4-1 vote in favor of returning Warden's handler permit. Chairman Mark Springer was the only member to vote against the action.
However, several members expressed that they are still concerned about the way AlaskaSense operates.
“I would hope that over the next little bit this operation gets its act together,” said board member Loren Jones.
While Warden’s permit will not be revoked, she must still pay back her debt to the state and a $20,000 fine for poor management.
Warden and Cannabaska manager Lorenzo Gonzalez say they plan to get their business back up and running as soon as possible.
“I never tried to hide anything,” Warden said. “I was very transparent throughout this seven months of investigation and it paid off. I can breathe now.”
Warden says she will do her best to address the board's concerns. She says her business will be changing entirely and that Cannabaska will soon have a new face.
Board members say they hope to provide further clarification of the state’s regulations so that Alaska’s marijuana industry can be successful.
Scott Gross contributed information to this story.
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