Retail marijuana sales in Juneau could begin this month

Rainforest Farms’ marijuana grows in Juneau on Monday. Co-owner James Barrett says these plants will provide the first legal marijuana for sale in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Rainforest Farms)
Rainforest Farms’ marijuana grows in Juneau on Monday. Co-owner James Barrett says these plants will provide the first legal marijuana for sale in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Rainforest Farms)

Juneau’s first legal retail marijuana sales could begin by month’s end.

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James Barrett co-owns Rainforest Farms, and no other business in Juneau has cleared as many of the regulatory hurdles to legally grow and sell pot, as his has.

“We have a couple of inspections next week. And right now we’re harvesting our first crop,” Barrett said. “So, if all goes well, then we’ll be opening Black Friday.”

At least 10 other ventures have sought state licenses in Juneau for one or more aspects of the marijuana business – separate licenses are required for growing, processing, retailing and testing.

Southeast Alaska Laboratories is the first testing facility in Juneau to get its state license. Jessica Dreibelbis is manager and part-owner. On Nov. 7, the Juneau Assembly waived its right to protest her state testing license.  Dreibelbis said she’s got some technical inspections and certifications to get through, but that her lab could be up and running by December first.

Moving marijuana through regular options out of town runs afoul of federal law.

Barrett is tight-lipped about how his crop will make it to store shelves without a currently operating local lab.

“Um, I can’t really make a comment on our testing for our products. But they will be tested,” Barrett said.

Dreibelbis said licensees need clean criminal records, and moving marijuana in and out of town for testing could put those licenses at risk.

Paul Disdier is majority owner of Fireweed Factory –  likely the next closest marijuana business to open in Juneau.

His business has a land-use permitting application going before the Juneau Planning Commission at the end of the month for a tiny, 158-square-foot storefront on Front Street.

“It’ll be the smallest marijuana retail store in Alaska, I’m sure,” Disdier said. “But there’s one that I know of in Washington that’s even smaller. It doesn’t take much space.”

Disdier said he’s aiming for retail sales beginning in February or March.

It’s too early to know what sort of economic impact the new marijuana businesses will have on Juneau’s economy.

City finance officials have estimated the 8 percent sales tax on marijuana will raise between $170,000 and $455,000 a year.