Muni, marijuana shop lock horns over locked dumpster
Anchorage marijuana sellers accused of attempting to conceal trash from regulators faced local Assembly members Thursday, drawing harsh words from one of them.
Representatives of AlaskaSense LLC, the operators of marijuana store Cannabaska and its cultivation facility on West Tudor Road, appeared before the Assembly’s Community and Economic Development Committee.
According to a muni code enforcement filing, AlaskaSense’s operators admitted to not immediately making a dumpster on the premises available for inspection during a Feb. 16 visit by inspectors, as well as not following its approved waste-disposal operating plan.
The filing said the first violation occurred at 2:04 p.m. that afternoon, when inspectors Kevin Collins and Richard Fern asked licensee Smarder Warden to examine a dumpster for marijuana waste which was secured by a frozen lock.
“Officer Fern produced a bolt cutter for the employees to use to remove the lock to facilitate the inspection,” the report read. “Ms. Warden was unsure about removing the lock but decided against authorizing her employees to use the bolt cutters to remove the lock. “Officer Fern indicated to Ms. Warden that not removing the lock would constitute a refusal of inspection.”
Surveillance video showed the dumpster being opened by employees at 2:15 p.m., according to the complaint, and “manipulating the waste in it.” At 2:26 p.m., employee Evan Neal called Fern to say the dumpster could be inspected – but two minutes later, a staff member called trash service Northern Waste to request an urgent trash pickup.
“Video indicated that the dumpster was emptied at 2:37 p.m.,” the report read.
When Collins and Fern returned at 2:49 p.m., they found only “some whole cannabis leaf left in the bottom of it.” In addition, some “usable marijuana” from flowers and stems was lying on the ground near the dumpster.
The business paid a total of $1,100 in fines in March for the two violations.
On Thursday, several Assembly members went over the case in greater detail, after the distribution of surveillance imagery in a subsequent report. Downtown member Christopher Constant suggested the photos showed more “egregious” violations of muni code than those originally cited after the visit.
“I was, quite frankly, shocked to see what I saw there,” Constant said. “What I witnessed in the report and the photos I saw there was an operation that denied inspectors, and then within five minutes of that came back with a key and removed items – and then called inspectors back and said, ‘Oh, we found the key.’”
Neal, along with other AlaskaSense representatives, offered a different take on the incident. Attempts to heat the lock kept it from being immediately opened on what they said was a 16-degree day, but were eventually successful.
“I guess if you were just going to look at it from what you saw, it could look bad,” Neal said. “The inspection was not even refused; what was refused was damaging property and breaking the lock off.”
Neal agreed to produce call logs proving the company called inspectors before Northern Waste, under pointed questioning from Constant.
“Already from these photos in here, my trust level in your words is not high,” Constant said.
The materials removed from the dumpster, Neal said, were “root balls” of accumulated roots from marijuana plants. AlaskaSense has had problems properly destroying them, he said, resorting to three separate grinding solutions to render them unusable.
“We’ve had to go to a gas-powered tree grinder – turns out marijuana residue is very tough,” Neal said.
In hindsight, Neal said, staff would probably have opted to use the bolt cutters rather than provoke the fines discussed at Thursday’s hearing.
“If we could go back and choose to cut the lock off we would have done it,” Neal said.
Assembly members also heard from staff at marijuana grower Danish Gardens off Lake Otis Parkway, regarding separate complaints last fall of marijuana odors near the facility. They said Danish Gardens has received $20,000 in filtration systems, after being fined $1,800 by the muni.
Another hearing on AlaskaSense before the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board is also scheduled in the case Thursday afternoon.
Scott Gross contributed information to this story.
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