Kotzebue green-lights second marijuana shop

Kotzebue as seen from the road east of town (Photo: Zachariah Hughes – Alaska Public Media, Kotzebue)

The city of Kotzebue has approved the town’s second retail marijuana store. On Wednesday, the local regulatory board gave the OK for business owner Justin An to open up Green Zone, down the street from the city’s first dispensary, Alaskan Grown Cannabis.

This is the second time An’s application for a retail marijuana store has been up for review. He says initially, the store was named Hot Pot and located in a prominent Shore Avenue location.

“The public, they don’t want any marijuana shop on that street because the shore has a nice ocean view, the people are jogging, kids are playing, and the community said they don’t want to see the marijuana shop on front street,” An said.

There were also complaints from the board about using the word “pot” in the business name, prompting a change to Green Zone.

Two people expressed concern over the store at the board meeting. One cited possible effects on the surrounding neighborhood, and the other was worried about use by employees of Maniilaq Health Center, which prohibits cannabis use by its workers. An’s attorney said the store would have security measures in place at the facility.

An has been working for two years to get the business up and running, due to extensive regulations. He says he’s excited about venturing into an emerging industry.

“I’m not a smoker, but marijuana is a new business, a challenging business people have never done before,” An said. “I’ve been selling liquor in Nome for 12 years, so I just wanted to try to do something different.”

An currently lives in Nome, but is packing up to move to Kotzebue and hopes to have the store open in two to three months. Kotzebue’s first retail marijuana store was approved in April and opened in May.