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Weed is legal in Alaska, but when will it go on sale in Anchorage?

By Shannon Ballard Photojournalist: Andy Nitchman - 5:27 PM December 7, 2016

From Southeast to Fairbanks, marijuana shops have started opening their doors across the state.

But Alaska’s biggest city is trudging behind, leaving many to ask: When will Anchorage’s pot shops finally open?

The municipality has a list of about 100 or so proposed marijuana businesses, according to Erika McConnell, marijuana coordinator with the Municipality of Anchorage.

So far McConnell says 28 of those looking to open have assembly approval. On Wednesday, Alaska Fireweed on 4th Avenue became the first Anchorage retail shop to pass its final inspection.

“Its very exciting and nerve racking at the same time,” Alaska Fireweed General Manager Will Ingram said. “We’re at the finish line now. I can see it in sight.”

The store’s empty shelves will soon be filled with nine strains of cannabis from Greatland Ganja, a cultivator from Kasilof.

Alaska Fireweed is set to open to the public at “high noon” on Saturday December, 17.

“This is a great way to initiate the holidays,” Ingram says.

Still, that puts Anchorage more than a month behind other stores around the state.

McConnell says that’s because, unlike other cities, Anchorage won’t accept marijuana business applications until they’ve been certified by the state.

The new land use and development code also raised the bar for renovations and new builds.

“I certainly have compassion for people who are pouring their life savings into opening their business,” McConnell said. “We are trying our best to keep the process moving and resolve any issues without putting up road blocks.”

She says some stores have just had bad luck, such as the Thanksgiving Day robbery at Enlighten Alaska.

“We just had a lot of expensive tools in here that we were using to finish this build-out in preparation for opening” Enlighten Alaska Co-owner Evan Levinton said. “Its enough to really hurt us.”

Levinton said the shop was also scheduled to open Dec. 17, but now the goal is to open by the first of the year.

Arctic Herbery in Midtown was also delayed after accusations that owner Bryant Thorp broke the law by giving away free samples.

But on Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly gave him the green light to move forward.

“It has been a ride,” Thorpe said. “I’ve learned a lot. It’s been two years on this thing.”

The former real-estate agent must still pass municipal inspections. If all goes as plan Thorp hopes to open his store next week as well.

It’s a toss-up on which Anchorage pot shop will welcome customers first: Arctic Herbery or Alaska Fireweed.

Two other Anchorage pot shops are also on the verge of opening.

Dankorage, located behind REI, plans start selling cannabis the week before Christmas, while Enlighten Alaska in Spenard plans to open the end of the year.

KTVA 11’s Shannon Ballard can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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