Cannabaska shut down indefinitely for improper disposal of waste
The sole owner of two marijuana businesses in Anchorage is the first to have her marijuana handler permit revoked.
Smadar Warden owns AlaskaSense, LLC., a standard marijuana cultivation facility and retail marijuana store Cannabaska, both located on Tudor Road.
"From an individual perspective, I'm really sad," Assemblymember Chris Constant said. "All that investment and all that time. From a community perspective, it's clear we have a standard that you have to operate by. You can't be operating in such a way that creates uncertainty or creates suspicion that you are not following the rules."
The suspicion started well before a February 16 unannounced visit from AMCO investigators and Land Force Use Officers. During the spot visit, investigators found un-grinded buds and stems around the waste dumpster. When asked to see inside the dumpster, employees said they could not get in the dumpster because it was locked. Video surveillance would later show employees opening the dumpster two hours before investigators arrived and again soon after investigators left. Employees also called for an emergency waste dump which they said was a normal procedure.
The AMCO board decided on Thursday evening that the story told by AlaskaSense and Cannabaska personnel did not match the findings and video evidence.
"The board took this action because they concluded that diversion of marijuana had occurred," AMCO Director Erika McConnell said in a statement Friday morning, "due to the actions of the licensee in not properly following the regulations for waste disposal. Prevention or elimination of diversion is one of the enforcement guidelines of the board, as part of their duty to protect the health and safety of the people of Alaska."
Smadar Warden is also facing other charges including failing to pay taxes, failure to provide business records and failing to file tax returns according to a petition filed by the Marijuana Control Board on Friday. The petition claims Warden failed to pay taxes, based on transfers made between the beginning of operations and March 31, 2018, that totaled $293,248.97.
Customers who turned out on Friday were turned away by blue tape and a sign that read, "closed for business opening ASAP."
"I'm bummed," customer Scott Donahue said. "I'm really bummed; this was the best place in town. Now I'll have to find another place."
Under the current restrictions, the businesses are basically shut down until further notice.
"Ms. Warden is no longer allowed to cultivate or sell marijuana," McConnell said. "Inventory at both businesses has been placed on hold in the board’s inventory tracking system, but Ms. Warden is authorized to care for the marijuana plants in her cultivation facility pending any appeal of the decision. The board will convene a seizure hearing within 10 days to determine the disposition of the inventory at the two businesses."
The purpose of the handler card or permit is to ensure that there are no excuses when it comes to handling marijuana, as well as an understanding of the rules and regulations.
"Everyone who works in this business is required to take a test and understand what is required of them," Kim Cole, owner of Raspberry Roots said. "If an employee were to have their card revoked, they can no longer work. If an owner has it revoked and there is no other owner, the business is shut down. The understanding is every license owner must have a handler card. If your license holder doesn't have a card, you can't operate."
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