Cannabis advocates wary of Dunleavy’s Marijuana Control Board appointments

Vivian Stiver, left, and Brandon Emmett. (Photos courtesy of Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News Miner, AMIA)

Alaska’s marijuana industry and its advocates are concerned about Governor Mike Dunleavy’s appointment of two people to the Marijuana Control Board that the advocates say could slow or halt the industry’s growth and hamper the state’s ability to regulate it. The appointments follow Dunleavy’s decision last week to replace the board vice chairman with a member who has a long history of opposing marijuana use and sale.

Marijuana Control Board Vice Chairman Brandon Emmett said Thursday that he was just beginning to recover from the shock of being informed over the weekend by a member of Dunleavy’s office that he had decided to not reappoint Emmett for another three-year term.

“They said that the governor thanked me for my service, but that they were going in another direction,” Emmett said.

Emmett says he was shocked all over again Wednesday when he found out that Dunleavy had appointed longtime anti-marijuana crusader Vivian Stiver to fill his seat, beginning next month.

“I see now what the governor means when he said that they were going in another direction – appointing an abject prohibitionist,” Emmett said. “That is definitely a complete different direction.”

Stiver failed to return phone calls Thursday and said in a Facebook message this morning that she was traveling to Juneau and unavailable for comment. But she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that if she’s confirmed by the Legislature on Feb. 28, she’ll ensure that the board operates under “a process that is fair and accessible to everyone.”

The ex-Fairbanks City Council member has played a leading role in organizations that opposed legalizing marijuana and that twice tried to ban sale of pot in the city and Fairbanks North Star Borough. Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow says the governor wanted someone on the board to represent that perspective.

“That’s a viewpoint that is certainly shared by many other Alaskans,” Shuckerow said.

Shuckerow says Dunleavy also chose Stiver to represent the general public, as allowed by state law. Emmett is a Fairbanks cannabis-business partner and board president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.

“So far, the only stakeholder group that hasn’t had representation on the Marijuana Control Board has been a member from the general public,” Shuckerow said.

Emmett acknowledges the public should be represented on the board. But he says Stiver’s anti-marijuana agenda should disqualify her for the job, because it conflicts with what the majority of Alaskans believe, as reflected in consecutive votes in favor of legalized commercial marijuana.

“The governor is definitely well within his rights to appoint a member of the public,” Emmett said. “What I think is somewhat disingenuous, though, is who they chose. If you look at Vivian Stiver’s record, she is truly an abject prohibitionist.”

Emmett says he’s heard many others worry out loud about those same issues.

“I am speaking to the concerns of every industry member that I know – and many members of the general public,” he said.

Emmett says the main concern is that Stiver will slow the board’s work, especially in reviewing new business applications and developing new regulations – like those it just approved that set rules for businesses that want to offer consumption of marijuana on-site. Emmett thinks the new board is unlikely to revisit those regs, which now await the lieutenant governor’s signature.

“But what we could see, if we have got a majority of board members who are opposed to on-site consumption, we could see it being very difficult for those businesses to get that endorsement,” Emmett said.

Dunleavy’s other new board appointee, Chris Jaime, told CoastAlaska radio that he is concerned about on-site consumption. Jaime is an Alaska Wildlife Troopers lieutenant from Soldotna who’s served with the agency for 18 years.

“I think we do need to re-evaluate the decision to allow on-site consumption,” Jaime said. “There’s a lot of issues with the way marijuana is metabolized by the body and such, and … y’know we don’t impaired drivers on the roadway.”

If the Legislature approves Dunleavy’s appointees, the board will be left with only one industry representative – Nicholas Miller, of Anchorage.